November 1, 2007 Basketball players looking to rule the court may need more than just skill and endurance to be a top player. A good dribble, some fancy footwork ... It might look good on the court, but when it comes to playing the game, getting the ball through the hoop is what basketball is all about. But it'’s not that easy for every player. Now, physicist and former college ball player, John Fontanella, teaches a few basic principles of science to help players make the basket every time!
Basketball players looking to rule the court may need more than just skill and endurance to be a top player. A good dribble, some fancy footwork ... It might look good on the court, but when it comes to playing the game, getting the ball through the hoop is what basketball is all about.
But it'’s not that easy for every player. Now, physicist and former college ball player, John Fontanella, teaches a few basic principles of science to help players make the basket every time!
One popular move is the jump shot. But many players release the ball too soon and miss the basket.
“"One of the most important things that I found ... is that the ball really needs to be released right at the top of the jump,"” Fontanella said.
At that moment, the player isn't moving -- his velocity is zero. Releasing the ball at the top gives the player better control of the ball and making it more likely that he will make the shot. Another shot, the lay-up, can be an easy shot to make by hitting the backboard at just the right spot.
“"I found the sweet spot for a right-hand lay-up and the sweet spot for a left-hand lay-up,”" Fontanella said.
The secret is hitting the top corners of the square on the backboard; the angle of the ball is perfect and lands the shot almost every time.
“"A little bit of knowledge of physics helps you play the game better,”" Fontanella said.
The American Association of Physics Teachers contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
BACKGROUND: Good basketball players develop their skills through endless repetition, hard-wiring the brain with the correct sequence of muscle movements for optimal play (“kinesthetic memory”). However, knowing a little basic physics can still help you improve your game. You can learn why you should put a spin on the ball, get tips on improving your free throws, and discover the secret to Michael Jordan'’s seemingly longer “hang time.”
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.
Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.