Are volleyball or basketball players taller? (The BEST answer)

Basketball and volleyball are both popular sports that attract a lot of players. In basketball, it is easier to dunk if you are tall. In volleyball, you can block and attack more easily if you are taller. Therefore we can ask ourselves the question of which one of these players is taller: volleyball players or basketball players. Let’s look at some data and find out. 

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Are male basketball players taller than volleyball players?

In NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball, the average basketball player height is just under 6’5”. For volleyball players, it is about the same but overall basketball players are slightly bigger. We have to note that some player exaggerates their height as they think that it will increase their chances of getting selected. Therefore the data might be imprecise.  

Let’s look at professional players as we know that these are often taller than lower league players. The average player in the National Basketball Association (NBA) was listed at 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m).  The average height for a professional male volleyball player is around 6 ft 5″ (195 cm). There is no professional volleyball league in the USA so it is difficult to compare it completely as there can be regional differences that impact the results.

To solve this, we can look at data points from the Olympics. This international competition involves players from a lot of countries and this can standardize our data. From this, we can learn that the average male basketball player that competed in 2016 was 6 feet 11” whereas the average male volleyball player was slightly smaller with 6feet 4”. This data indicates that basketball players and volleyball players have on average the same height. It has to be noted that these players are part of the biggest players that participate in the Olympics. Therefore they are on average taller than the players that compete in other sports (such as football or tennis). There seems to be some truth to the story that volleyball and basketball payers have to be taller but there are also smaller players in each of these sports.

We can also look at the different roles on the court to study this further. Liberos are often smaller players in volleyball and guards are often smaller in basketball. For 2019 the average height of guards was 6’3”. This number stays quite stable over the years. If we look at data from the volleyball organization FIVB, we can see that the libero players in the top 4 best performing teams in the Olympics of 2012 were on average 6ft 0”. The sample size for the last data point is quite small but based on this data we can state that male basketball players are taller but this may be due to local differences.

Size of the top 4 Olympic teams of 2012 (in cm) Source FIVB

Middle blockers are often the tallest players in volleyball whereas forwards are the tallest players in basketball. We can see that the middle blockers in the top 4 best performing teams in the Olympics of 2012 were on average 6ft 75”. In the NBA the centers are slightly taller with an average size of 6ft 9”. Once again, this may be due to local differences.

Studies in Bangladesh also seem to confirm that basketball players are significantly taller than volleyball players. There is a big range in size as we have seen before and therefore it is hard to generalize over the whole world. Volleyball is more popular in a lot of Asian countries and people tend to be smaller there so this can impact the results as well. Overall, we can state that male basketball and volleyball players are quite similar in size. A lot of data points indicate that male basketball players are on average slightly taller than volleyball players. 

Are female volleyball players taller than basketball players?

In NCAA Division 1 women’s basketball, the average basketball player height is 5’6”. For volleyball players in NCAA Division 1, the average player is: 6’0”. This indicates that the volleyball players are taller on average.

If we look at data from the Olympics in 2016, we can state that they both measure 6 feet on average. This shows that the differences in size between female volleyball and basketball are smaller than men. They are also among the taller players in the different sports that are organized at the Olympics. 

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We can once again compare the different positions on the court. The average female libero from the top 4 volleyball teams in the Olympics in 2012 was 5 feet 4”. The average size of a guard in the WNBA (female NBA) is 5feet 9“ and is therefore slightly taller. 

The average size of the top 4 volleyball teams in the Olympics in 2012 was 6feet 2”. This is exactly the same as the average size of forwards in the WNBA.

Size of the top 4 female Olympic teams of 2012 (in cm) Source FIVB

Overall, it can be said that the size of female basketball and volleyball players is quite similar. There might be small differences between positions but in general, it seems that the average sizes overlap. 

As a whole, it is hard to tell if volleyball or basketball players are bigger as there are a lot of variables such as location and level. Americans are often taller than people from other countries and this can influence the data. For the data that we have, we can say that for professional males on average basketball players are often similar in size or slightly taller than volleyball players. For women, this difference is less pronounced and in NCA1 division 1 volleyball players are even taller than basketball players. The overall conclusion is that volleyball and basketball players are on average quite similar in length. They are amongst the tallest players across Olympic disciplines and sports. A lot of people say that you have to be tall to play basketball or volleyball but the guard position in basketball and the libero position in volleyball indicate that this is not true.