Free throw shooting

Finally, a scientist to codify something I’ve always thought: Random noise behind the backboard during a foul shot is easily ignored, just due to its randomness.

Here, a scientist puts a theory to the test in the NBA:

Foul Play – How a Slate scientist changed the NBA forever — or at least a week. By Daniel Engber

Last week, I wrote to the NBA owner I deemed most likely to consider applying the scientific method to free-throw shooting, Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks. I told Cuban that the assumption that waving balloons wildly will produce the biggest distraction is just plain wrong. Given how the brain perceives motion, randomly moving balloons aren’t very off-putting. When you see a lot of little objects moving crazily back and forth, all the different motion signals that get sent to the brain cancel each other out. In the mind of a free-throw shooter, a crowd of people waving wiggle sticks looks like a snowy TV screen. This sort of white noise might make it harder to see the rim, but the stats show that isn’t a big deal for the pros.

He got the Mavs to test an idea to keep all motion moving in the same direction. Read the articles for the results.

One thought on “Free throw shooting

  1. Thanks for the pointer. I’ve had a running curiosity about the various methods of distraction used by behind-basket crowds. As the writer points out, there are some college crowds that use this sort of thing — everyone leaning way out to one side, and then lunging to the other right as the guy shoots.

    The Wake Forest optical-illusion pinwheels crack me up too. I think they were new this season.

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