Science and Free-Throws

The New York Times has posted an article describing the Scientific Free-Throw Distraction that the Mavericks have attempted to use in their home games. Here’s an excerpt: “According to Daniel Engber, a basketball fan with a master’s degree in neuroscience, the standard ‘free-throw defenses’ are too haphazard to be effective. . . . The key to a successful free-throw defense, Engber argues, is to make a player perceive a ‘field of background motion’ that tricks his brain into thinking that he himself is moving, thereby throwing off his shooting. In other words, fans should wave their ThunderStix in tandem.” I think what the Mavericks have tried is really creative in the fact that at least they’re trying everything they can think of to give them an advantage at home.

Mark Cuban has apparently received the suggestion to have the arena dead silent when the other team is shooting. Here’s what he wrote in response to both the NY Times Article and the silence suggestion:

As far as the Free Throw Distraction. The article wasnt 100pct correct. Daniel provided the idea. I ran with it. It worked the first couple games. But dont tell anyone, but we didnt abandon it….The problem however is in getting everyone behind the basket to work in unison. Too many years of waiving bricks haphazardly I guess. But we are working on it. And for the record, for those who email me about how hard it would make it on the Free Throw shooter if the arena were dead silent. If we cant get them to waive a sign in unison, how are we going to get 20k fans to shut up ?

I agree that it would be next to impossible to make it work, but would it hurt anything to give it a try? Humble Billy could announce it on the PA, it could be flashing on the big screen and the wrap-around sign (which is really cool, by the way), and the Hoop Troop could hold up signs that read “SILENT.” Heck, you could even have AMC Theaters sponsor the whole thing. “Silence is Golden.” How’s that for creativity Mark?

Road 219 / 288 76.0%
Home 280 / 379 73.9%

One thought on “Science and Free-Throws

  1. Hey, what’s up?

    I’m on the Hoop Troop, and I love your idea — but I have to agree it’d be really hard to work. I mean, people talk constantly during the national anthem — getting them to be quiet during a free throw? Even harder.

    Also, a lot of the seats behind the basket are filled by VIPs from the opposing team. Shaq’s posse was sitting there against Miami. If they felt he was distracted by the silence, they alone could make enough noise to make the place not totally quiet.

    And then there’s just the fans. A lot of them don’t like being told what to do. A good number of them refuse to take bricks, finding the whole thing blase, and instructing them on how to wave their bricks brings even more odd looks.

    But we keep trying! 🙂

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