“You’re growing like a weed.” That’s the old saying for those that sprout up out of nowhere. Some players grow because of basketball, some are just natural long, lanky athletes. For some of the best athletes in the game, they need height to succeed.
There are always outliers like Muggsy Bogues, Isaiah Thomas, or Nate Robinson. Those guys didn’t need to have the eight to achieve greatness. However, they are the exception to the rule. For everyone else, they needed a crazy growth spurt for their game to achieve the next level.
Here are 15 of the craziest growth spurts we have ever seen.
Lamar Odom - 7 Inches
Odom was a two-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers and former Sixth Man of the Year. Out of college, he was a First-Team All-Atlantic selection at Rhode Island thanks to a healthy growth spurt.
In high school, Odom stood 6-foot-2 and was projected to be a point guard. Odom remained that size by his senior year and his first two years of college. Then, he sprouted to 6-foot-9 by his junior year of college.
Michael Jordan - 7 Inches
Jordan managed to grow despite his father standing 5-foot-9 and his mother at 5-foot-6. Jordan stood at 5-foot-11 as a sophomore in high school. By his junior year, he grew 6-foot-3, and then 6-foot-6 by his senior year. The rest of Jordan’s career is history.
Jordan turned the Chicago Bulls into a yearly contender for the NBA championship during the 1990s. He was a five-time MVP and a six-time NBA champion that also won six NBA Finals MVP awards.
Russell Westbrook - 7 Inches
The former MVP makes the list after one of the craziest growth spurts. As a freshman in high school, Westbrook stood 5-foot-8. He grew one inch his junior year and stayed at that height until graduation. Westbrook played at UCLA and grew up to 6-foot-3. His athleticism grew along with his height in college.
After college, Westbrook won an MVP in 2017 and averaged the first triple-double in a season since the days of Oscar Robertson. Westbrook has accomplished this feat four times in his career.
Scottie Pippen - 7 Inches
Once upon a time, Pippen didn’t consider himself a good basketball player because he was short. He was the team’s equipment manager in high school, but he was hit with a growth spurt that helped him believe in his game and become one of the best small forwards in the game. At Central Arkansas, Pippen grew seven inches and stood 6-foot-8.
Six championships and a Hall of Fame career later, Pippen was a pretty solid basketball player. Playing alongside Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls, the two became one of the best dynamic duos in the history of the NBA.
LeBron James - 7 Inches
LeBron was told at a young age that he wouldn’t top 6-foot-3. James was able to defy those odds. His freshman year, LeBron stood at 6-foot-1. In just two years, LeBron stretched to 6-foot-8.
LeBron’s growth spurt isn’t the reason he has won four NBA championships, but it has certainly helped. LeBron’s time left of the league is coming to a close soon, but the former MVP is looking to maybe close his career with the same amount of championships as Michael Jordan.
Zion Williamson - 8 Inches
Williamson had the ultimate growth spurt at a young age. Most eighth and ninth graders grow, but Williamson really stretched out. As an eighth-grader, Williamson was a stocky 5-foot-9. His freshman year, Williamson grew eight inches and stood at 6-foot-7. He became a global star in high school and became a future No. 1 overall draft pick.
At 20 years old, Williamson is the fourth-youngest All-Star starter in league history. He has a ceiling to become the next face of the NBA.
Tim Duncan - 8 Inches
Duncan stood at 6-foot-3 at the age of 16 years old. Even though that is not considered short, it’s not tall based on NBA standards. When Duncan turned 17, he had a late growth spurt see him grow to a towering 6-foot-11.
Duncan eventually won five NBA championships with the San Antonio Spurs. He has been selected to the Hall of Fame. Known as “Mr. Fundamental,” Duncan was one of the most consistent players in the league during his playing days.
Anthony Davis - 9 Inches
Between his sophomore and junior years of high school, Davis shot up from 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-10. Davis now stands at 6-foot-11, but the theme is that Davis grew nine inches in about two years. Davis was a spot-up shooter during those years, but his height helped him change the style of his game.
Davis is a former No. 1 overall draft pick and an NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers. He is an eight-time All-Star and a four-time All-Defensive selection. That extra height he gained has paired well with his basketball skills in becoming one of the best defensive players in the post.
Dennis Rodman - 10 Inches
Rodman didn’t use to be a standout athlete after getting cut from the basketball and football team. After completing high school, Rodman found a job as a janitor at a Dallas airport. While working, Rodman grew from 5-foot-9 to 6-foot-7 and didn’t play organized basketball until 21.
Eventually, Rodman became a Defensive Player of the Year, rebounding champ, and a key member of the Chicago Bulls dynasty. He was a member of the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons and finished his career with five NBA championships.
Jeremy Lin - 12 Inches
Lin is an outlier given the nature of his parents. Both of Lin’s parents' average height is around 5-foot-6. However, Lin found a way to stretch to 6-foot-3. Starting as 5-foot-3 as a freshman in high school, Lin grew as time went on, but what is even more amazing is that Lin’s siblings also topped six feet too.
In basketball, Lin became an international star with the Knicks as a member of “Linsanity.” After bouncing around the league, Lin played a total of 27 minutes for the 2019 champion Toronto Raptors in the playoffs, which made him the first East Asian American and Harvard grad to play in the NBA Finals.
Gordon Hayward - 12 Inches
Throughout Hayward’s childhood, he strived to be a tennis player. His father was around 5-foot-10, so he didn’t believe he would have the height. Hayward was 5-foot-8 his sophomore year of high school, but then grew to 6-foot-4 (junior year) and 6-foot-8 by his senior year. Since then, his tennis career took a backseat to his basketball career.
Hayward helped Butler make two NCAA Tournament Championship appearances and was the Horizon League Player of the Year in 2010. He became an All-Star in 2017 and is now one of the highest-paid members of the Charlotte Hornets.
Dwight Howard - 13 Inches
It’s hard to imagine the three-time Defensive Player of the Year as a point guard, but that was what Howard was back in the day. In 8th grade, Howard stood 5-foot-10 but grew as high as 6-foot-9 in high school. Then, towards his junior and senior years, he stretched to 6-foot-11. Howard was drafted straight out of high school after being seen as the next version of Shaq.
Howard became one of the best centers in the league, making the All-Star Game each year from 2007 to 2014. He helped the Orlando Magic make the NBA Finals in 2009 and then won his first championship with the Lakers last year.
Manu Ginobili - 13 Inches
At 15 years old, Ginobili stood 5-foot-5 and possessed a desire to play professional basketball. In two years, he grew up to 6-foot-6. That type of height helped the four-time champion and two-time All-Star. It’s said that his childhood friend was baffled to see his friend grow as tall as he did in such a short time.
Ginobili is one of the best success stories in basketball. He was selected No. 57 overall in the NBA Draft. After winning Sixth Man of the Year, and making two All-Star appearances, Ginobili had his No. 20 retired by the Spurs organization.
CJ McCollum - 14 Inches
As a freshman in high school, McCollum stood at a modest 5-foot-2. McCollum’s short stature didn’t last for long as he grew five inches his sophomore year and then another four inches his junior year. He wasn’t done growing as McCollum grew as high as 6-foot-4 between his senior year and his freshman season in college.
McCollum’s extra height might have helped him surge in the college ranks. He was a two-time Patriot League Player of the Year at Lehigh. In 2016, McCollum won Most Improved Player of the Year and has paired with Damian Lillard since entering the league as the No. 10 overall pick in 2013.
David Robinson - 16 Inches
Robinson had a huge growth spurt between his junior and senior years in high school. In one year, he grew from 5-foot-9 and 6-foot-7 for a whopping 10 inches. After earning All-Area and All-District honors in high school, Robinson played at Navy, where he grew another six inches, topping out at 7-foot-1.
The NBA was better with Robinson playing in it. During his tenure with the Spurs, Robinson won the 1995 MVP. He made 10 All-Star appearances, 10 All-NBA selections, and two NBA championships from 1989-2003.