Actually, he doesn't hang in the air any longer than any other
basketball player. It just looks that way. Once he leaves the ground, Jordan
is governed by the same laws of physics as the rest of us. How high he jumps
depends entirely on how much force he generates with his legs as he leaves
the ground. And how long he stays aloft is directly related to the height
of the jump: the higher the jump, the longer he stays in the air.
A vertical jump of four feet leads to a hang time of one second. That's
an unusually high jump and, it turns out, most basketball players, including
Michael Jordan, don't jump that high. A three-foot-high jump has a hang
time of 0.87 seconds. All the artistry of a slam dunk takes place in just
eight- or nine-tenths of a second!
Jordan makes it seem longer because he holds onto the ball longer than
other players before shooting or dunking, waiting until he's on the way
down to let go of the ball. His tendency to pull his legs up as the jump
progresses also makes it seem like he's staying higher than he really is.
Next time you watch the Bulls play, try to time how long Jordan stays
aloft and compare it to other players' hang times. You'll see there's not