By Ryan Mayer

Growing up, sports fans often find themselves dreaming the big dreams of one day becoming a professional athlete. When sports are your passion, it’s understandable to do so. However, as we get older, we come to realize that those dreams are fairly unrealistic due to the sheer numbers. There are only a limited number of jobs available in each of the major professional sports leagues and in order to make it there, you must be the best of the best.

Now, a new study from the Wall Street Journal suggests there may be another factor to consider in whether an athlete makes it to the professional level or not. According to the study, the Journal found that a staggering 48.8 percent of players currently in the NBA are related to current or former “elite” athletes. That number stands in stark contrast to the findings of the same study for the NFL (17.5 percent) and MLB (14.5 percent).

The term “elite” is an ambiguous one, but the study defined it as such. “Anyone who has played a sport professionally, in the NCAA or at national-team level.” The study went on to propose a hypothesis for why there is such a strong connection between elite level athletes and NBA players as opposed to other sports.

“The connectedness in the NBA likely comes down to the importance of height in elite basketball. The average NBA player is about 6-feet, 6-inches tall, which is 11 inches taller than the average American male, according to Census data.

“That’s a pretty reasonable hypothesis that’s why so many basketball players have so many relatives,” said Joel Hirschhorn, a lead genetics researcher at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and a pediatric endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. “We know that being six-feet, nine-inches tall greatly increases the chance of having another relative that’s close to six-nine.”

The overarching point? Generally, if you’re not related to someone who has played sports at a college, professional, or international level or someone who is tall, than you have an even smaller chance of making the NBA. As the old saying goes, “you can’t teach height”.

Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.


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