November 10, 2009
Why they decided to release it to the public rather than give their methods directly to Sidney Lowe is beyond me. If 2009-2010 goes as planned, the Wolfpack will need the help.
Yes, two N.C. State engineers say they've found the best way to shoot a free throw, a combination of setup, release speed, and aim that, when scientifically recreated, always leads to a made shot. The process is simple physics and geometry -- notice how I say "simple", as if I understand anything about physics, geometry, or even basic arithmetic -- and sounds pretty straightforward, given the science involved:
First, the engineers say that shooters should launch the shot with about three hertz of back spin. That translates to the ball making three complete backspinning revolutions before reaching the hoop. [...] Where to aim? Tran and Silverberg say you should aim for the back of the rim, leaving close to 5 centimeters – about 2 inches – between the ball and the back of the rim. According to the simulations, aiming for the center of the basket decreases the probabilities of a successful shot by almost 3 percent.
The engineers say that the ball should be launched at 52 degrees to the horizontal. If you don’t have a protractor in your jersey, that means that the shot should, at the highest point in its arc to the basket, be less than 2 inches below the top of the backboard.
There is also something about a 52-degree angle to the backboard and a high release that the researchers want to hammer home, but I stopped reading because ew, math. Am I right? Learning sucks! Let's quit with the boring stuff and get to the funny tongue-in-cheek quote from a researcher, please:
"Our recommendations might make even the worst free-throw shooters – you know who you are, Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Wallace – break 60 percent from the free-throw line,” Silverberg says with tongue firmly in cheek. “A little bit of physics and a lot of practice can make everyone a better shooter from the free-throw line."
I have a feeling Ben Wallace and Shaquille O'Neal and horrid free throw shooters the world over are not exactly going to be persuaded by that. The "lots of practice" thing isn't a problem. It's the "little bit of physics" that will likely prove prohibitive. Interesting stuff, though.