22 November 2021

Michael Jordan – a story of spectacular growth

By Alan Rybczynski

Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest basketball player of all time. He earned this title not only by his many accurate shots to the basket, but also by working hard to increase his height. I will zoom in on the activities Jordan may have done to grow from 172 cm to 198 cm.

Michael is described as a phenomenal athlete who redefined the sport called “basketball”. His style of play combines harmony, grace, speed, strength, improvisational ability and competition. He was born in Brooklyn but was raised in North Carolina. He was the son of Delores and James Jordan, while in this family baseball was their first love. When he was younger, he played basketball with his older brother Larry, who always won games with him. Following in the footsteps of his older brother Larry, who was a spectacular athlete in his own right, Jordan started playing basketball professionally. He attended Laney High School in Wilmington, but as a scrawny and short sophomore, he was dismissed from the university’s basketball team.
The former Chicago Bulls star did not come from a family of giants. In fact, none of his immediate family members were more than six feet tall. Michael Jordan’s father, James R. Jordan, was no more than 5’9″ (175 cm). MJ’s mother, Deloris Jordan, was about 5’5″ (165 cm).

Michael Jordan with his parents and siblings.

However, Michael had an older cousin, measuring 6’7″, who lived with the family while he was in high school, working on basketball with the younger boys. This is evidence that there were height genes somewhere in his family. Jordan, however, was not very tall in his early years. He is the opposite of his best teammate Scottie Pippen, whose mom was 6’0″ (182 cm) and his dad was 6’1″ (185 cm). Pippen probably knew from an early age that he would reach a height of at least 6 feet 2 inches (187 cm), while Jordan’s height was rather in question. Michael, however, hoped deep down that he had inherited valuable genes not directly from his parents, but down the line.

He and his childhood friend, Harvest Leroy Smith, tried out for the college basketball team in their second year. Smith, who was 6’7″ (200 cm) was selected because of his height, while the 5’11” Jordan (180 cm) was sent to the JV basketball team by coach Clifton “Pop” Herring. This served as motivation to work harder. He never gave up or made peace with his height as he directly dreamed of a career as an NBA player.

Imagine what a gem the sport would have lost if not for him. Jordan admits that his toughest opponent to date has been his brother, Larry. He says that Larry could have been a better player than he was, yet he grew to just 5’8″ (172 cm).

The uncertainty forced young Jordan to experiment with several “crazy” techniques for growing taller in hopes of getting taller. Every day, in an attempt to grow he would hang from a pull-up bar in the backyard playground. His parents, seeing him do this, thought he was crazy. Seeing their son’s desperation, his mother even suggested that he pour salt in his shoes and say a prayer every night. When Michael Jordan entered E.A. Laney High School in 1979 he was only 5’8″ (172 cm) tall. In high school, M.J. played basketball, soccer, and baseball. As you can see, he played a great many sports that almost textbook increase height. All activities combined, include elements of running including sprinting and jumping. During these activities, the pituitary gland secretes large amounts of growth hormone, and bones are stimulated to grow. There was no question of concessions and laziness, for the hope of a career was the hard work of a young boy.

Michael Jordan measured 5’11” (180 cm) in his sophomore year of high school. Official sources say that as a result of his efforts, by the end of the following summer, he had miraculously grown 6’3″ (190 cm) and was able to finally begin his journey to superstardom. He then grew another 3 inches, beating all expectations, and reached a height of 198 cm (6’6″). This made him taller than his two older brothers, but he was still not considered tall by basketball standards. There is a famous documentary about MJ from the early 1990s called “Come Fly With Me”. In this documentary you can hear Jordan speak about how he wanted to be 7 feet tall when he was a kid.



Genetics may have played a role in Michael achieving such a large jump in height. In large part, Jordan owes his height to hard, even fanatical, daily work during his school years. A low height complex was probably also a motivating factor.