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November 11, 2009 5:00 PM

Nerds Try to Get Involved in Sports

free throw math.jpgAt the beginning of this NBA season, Dwight Howard said everyone had been trying to give him advice about how to shoot free throws. If Howard had been perfect from the free throw line last season he would've averaged 4.3 more points per game. Howard couldn't listen to everyone but there might be a couple engineers at NC State he should give a few minutes of his time. These engineers spent a lot (too much ...) time determining the perfect free throw.

The engineers used hundreds of thousands of three-dimensional computer simulations of basketball free-throw trajectories to arrive at their conclusions ... shooters should launch the shot with about three hertz of back spin. That translates to the ball making three complete revolutions before reaching the hoop ... 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 ... the ball should be launched at 52 degrees to the horizontal.
I can just hear Syracuse's Jim Boeheim now, "No, THREE hertz! Three hertz, Onuaku! Aim for the back of the rim. No! Don't throw it as hard as you can!"
Onuaku: "Why can't they just let me dunk it?"


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