# March Madness: Science of Shooting

## Engineers Help Basketball Players Sink Bank Shots More Easily

March 1, 2011

Engineers found that in certain areas of the basketball court, bank shots- which hit the backboard and fall into the net- can improve success by up to 20 percent. The engineers also developed a teaching aid that allows players to locate the target for their bank shots, based on their court location.

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PUTTING A SPIN ON IT: Once the basketball leaves the shooter's hand, it travels in an unchanging parabolic path that can be calculated using Newton's laws of motion. But putting a backspin on the ball can help you make more free throws. When a spinning ball bounces, it bounces back in the direction of the spin. If the ball hits the backboard or back of the rim, it will be directed toward into the basket. That's because when the ball makes contact with the rim or backboard, the backspin causes a change in velocity opposite to the spin direction, making it more likely that the ball will drop into the net softly.

HANG TIME: Michael Jordan earned the nickname 'Air Jordan' because of his seemingly longer 'hang time' making jump shots in games, but this is an illusion. How high someone can jump depends on the force used to push on the floor when starting to jump, which in turn depends on the strength and power of the jumper's leg muscles. The harder and more powerful the jump, the higher and longer the flight. In order to leap four feet into the air, the hang time would be 1.0 seconds. Jordan had a few tricks up his sleeve to make that hang time seem longer. When he dunked, he held onto the ball a bit longer than most players, and actually placed it in the basket on the way down. He also pulled his legs up as the jump progressed so it appeared that he was jumping higher. But it still all happened in less than one second.

The American Physical Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.

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To Go Inside This Science:

Deborah White
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
NC State University
dawhite@ncsu.edu

James Riordon, Media Relations
American Physical Society
College Park, MD
Riordon@aps.org