Before you ask, here’s how to rack up points without flashy moves, but rather the nonchalance of a player who knows he’s got it in the basket: First, aim for the backboard. Next, stand a few feet in front of the free throw line or off to one side at an angle that keeps the backboard in view. (Click here for a handy color-coded chart.) Then just practice, practice, practice, and you should be 20 percent more likely to make bank shots than if you simply aimed for the hoop and willed your hardest.
Now the strategy may seem easy enough, but it’s actually been worked out by professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University, Larry Silverberg and his collaborators. In fact, they created a computer program that simulated the physics of bank shots.
At the suggestion of the University’s former basketball coach, Larry Hunter (now at Western Carolina University), they decided to mathematically simulate basketball shots from release to backboard hit to swoosh, improving their own games as only engineers would.
For the sake of the model, they began by assuming a typical player who would let go of the ball from seven feet in the air and have an average free throw success rate of 70 percent. Then they ran the program for different speeds and throwing angles from over 100 places on the court, all within 15 feet of the hoop and thus shorter than a free throw.
Turns out aiming at that little square painted on the backboard was essentially useless for sinking bank shots, in this scenario at least. Silverberg’s team found that for a shot at any given angle of position around the hoop, the ideal target remained the same regardless of how far away a player stands.
Extrapolating the targets from all possible angles forms a V-shaped pattern on the backboard. To aim accurately then, the player just needs to aim for where the edge of the V and the vertical rod behind the backboard intersect in his or her line of sight. V for voila?
Sounds… easier said than done to me. Then again, I did bowl a 12 the other day. So go for it, get the paper here(you’ll need a guest account), tape a V to your neighborhood glass backboard with a vertical rod posted exactly 3.326 inches behind, and win back the $10 you lost in Quidditch last week.
In all seriousness though, this new way of breaking finesse into fine points could help coaches teach and players learn how to become bank shot experts.
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