Can Soccer Players Dunk?

Footballers are incredible physical specimens able to perform a wide range of body motions that the average human being can only dream of replicating.

This got me thinking about the possibilities of players being able to perform clutch actions that are usually seen in other sports.

So, after asking myself the intriguing question of whether soccer players can dunk, I arrived at a conclusion following a little bit of research.

Soccer players can be able to execute a slam dunk, although a combination of an athlete’s own physical capabilities such as acceleration, vertical lift, hand size, height and overall technique all play an influential role in determining whether the action will be a success.

For those of you who’ve been looking left and right in confusion whilst reading this introduction, I’m going to quickly explain what a slam dunk actually is.

Let’s begin…


What is a slam dunk?

It’s easy to feel lost on this topic especially when you aren’t a basketball watcher or player.

A slam dunk is essentially a term used to denote a type of basketball shot where the athlete jumps up aggressively into the air and thrusts the ball down through the basket with one or both hands holding onto the rim for support after the action has been completed.

Here’s an image that illustrates the move perfectly:

what a slam dunk looks like

In basketball a dunk counts for two scoring points, which is slightly less than a 3-pointer shot which accounts for three points as the name implies.


Which soccer players have ever performed a good dunk?

Now I’m sure you’re quite curious to see the visual evidence of soccer players performing the manoeuvre effectively, which is why I’ve sourced the video below for reference:

In the compilation you’ll notice a number of accomplished soccer stars who managed to successfully pull off a dunk.

The three players in question were Mario Balotelli, David de Gea and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

I also managed to find a short slow-motion clip where Sergio Ramos can be seen dunking at Real Madrid’s training facilities.


Physical attributes a soccer player would need to execute a dunk

Now I’ll briefly look at the qualities a footballer needs to be able to perform this action.


1. Acceleration

There’s a particular saying which goes along the lines of…

“You must learn how to fly before being able to soar with the eagles”

What this means in the context of slam dunking is that, in order for a player to successfully reach the height of the rim, they need that initial burst of pace that will provide them with the necessary momentum to make the jump.


2. Jumping reach

can soccer players dunk - definitely with jumping reach

Following on from needing the ability to build up considerable speed quickly is the attribute of jumping reach.

Basketball hoops throughout sports facilities across the world almost always stand at a height of 10 feet, so a footballer would need to be able to jump high enough to perform the motion comfortably.

Part of this ability to lift off the ground comes from the explosive strength that the lower part of your body can generate.

And according to USA Basketball, physics is responsible for high jumping through a concept known as the overall power-to-body weight ratio.


3. Hand size

Having small-sized hands is a serious limiting factor when it comes to being able to execute a slam dunk.

Being able to palm a basketball with a single hand makes a massive difference.

This is because going for a two-handed dunk takes away from your jumping reach due to the fact that there’s more weight to get off the ground.


4. Height

You may have noticed a familiar pattern in the video I showed you earlier.

And this is the fact that all the players who successfully performed the dunking motion were tall in stature.

Take nothing away from arguably the best player of all time in Lionel Messi, but I highly doubt that he would be able to do a slam dunk as he’s only 1.7 metres tall (which is 5 feet and 5 inches high).

Being taller means that a player has less distance to make up for with their jump.

So, in some cases a taller player may find it much easier to dunk even with a lower vertical lift, as they’re closer to the rim in the first place.


5. Technique

This is arguably the final piece of the puzzle that brings everything together.

Having the initial burst of pace, knowing the exact moment to make the jump, how to keep hold of the ball with a single palm as well as approaching the basketball hoop from the right angle all contribute towards an effective dunk.

In the same way that free kick practice sharpens a player’s dead ball taking ability, the technique needed to pull off this particular basketball move with preciseness is perfected by constant repetition.


Final thoughts

Soccer players can perform slam dunks although the rate of success varies from athlete to athlete, based on a combination of physical factors comprising of lower body strength, vertical lift ability, hand size, height along with their relative explosiveness off the mark.

Samuel Waihenya
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