Genes & Sports

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On Tuesday, the Milwaukee Bucks signed center Larry Sanders to a four-year, $44 million contract. If your first reaction was, “Who?”, you’re weren’t alone. Last year, Sanders averaged 9.8 points and 9.5 rebounds a game in 27.3 minutes a game in Milwaukee. So, you probably never saw him play on TV. So despite the large salaries of professional athletes, that deal may still seam a bit high (even if he did average 2.8 blocks in those 27 minutes).

The fact is, not only are decent 7-footers rare, 7-footers in general are rare. Sports Illustrated writer, David Epstein, just published a book titled, The Sports Gene. In it, were many interesting facts about athletes. One of which was:

17% of American men who are seven feet tall and between the ages of 20 and 40 are playing in the NBA right now.

That’s insane! And furthermore:

There are only about 20,000 American men between ages 20 and 40 who are 6’8″ or taller.

So while we love to tell aspiring basketball players to have a backup plan and stay in school, if that kid is a legit 7′ and can run, there’s actually a pretty good chance they can make it in the NBA.

On a related note, YouTuber Vsauce has a very interesting video titled, “How Big Can a Person Get?”, that scientifically explains why the average human height won’t get much bigger than it is now despite it’s growth over the last thousand years. Although highly educational & entertaining, it is 15 minutes long. (You’ve been warned)

The lesson here? I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s to make sure your kids really do drink their milk, eat their vegetables and eat as much red meat as possible? Even if they have the talent of a Shawn Bradley, they’ll still make more money in their rookie contract than most Americans make in an entire career.


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