When you look at certain players in the NBA and their above-average performance in comparison to others, it becomes very easy to ponder if there is a genetic trait that gives certain players clear advantages over others.   The ability of Michael to dribble, score and soar above all competitors during his playing days would certainly leave one to wonder about his genetics.   The all-around ability of Lebron James in terms of speed, power, agility and basketball endurance would leave casual and die-hard NBA fans with no choice but to ask the same thing.   

So the question remains:  Is there a genetic predisposition that is needed to enhance the performance of professional basketball players?

There have been quite a few pieces surrounding this topic that have been conducted over the years.   We will discuss them in this piece. 

Six years ago, a paper released by Eastern Kentucky University suggested that a combination of traits such as height, weight and wingspan was the main determinant of performance in professional basketball.   Height is essential because it could provide mismatches that an opposing team may not be able to handle due to a height disadvantage.   Of course, the genetic trait of height is important since it will aid players with regards to rebounding and defense.  Taller defenders will have an advantage defending shorter shooters on the perimeter as well as in the interior. 

The paper suggested that a professional basketball player’s performance was dependent on if a player was above-average in one of the traits.    For example, Lebron James has an average height for a small forward.  However, he has above-average weight and wingspan.  Kevin Durant has an above-average height and a wingspan that is way above the average for small forwards.   

There is a possibility of certain common genes that may distinguish great NBA athletes from others. According to a piece by ABCNews, there is a gene associated with high athletic performance called PPARDelta.   This gene regulates a hormone that aids to regulate red blood cells in an efficient manner for optimal muscle performance. 

Another theory was conceptualized by a sport scientist by the name of Jonathan Niednagel.   He is a pioneer of an advanced technology that aids in sports evaluation and improvement called Brain Typing.   He came to discover that iconic basketball players such as Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal and John Stockton have a specific inborn brain type escribed as the“BEIR” brain type.   The “B” is a genetic predisposition for the back of the brain in which in-depth concentration and intensity are contained.   The "E" stands for empirical.  This indicates a reliance on observation as opposed to theoretical concepts.   

The "I" stands for an interest in the inanimate world. It indicates a greater interest in logic and systems as opposed to people and feelings. 

Finally, the "R" stands for the right brain.  The right brain is characteristic for specializing in smooth skills and peripheral vision.

September 13, 2023 — Jeremiah Oglesby