I have been researching psychology recently and ran into an article regarding hot and cold streaks in basketball. In the article in mentioned that Thomas Gilovich, Robert Vallone, and Amos Tversky interviewed the Philelphia 76ers in 1985 and found that players estimated they were about 25% more likely to make a shot after they made one than after a miss. In one survey, 9 of 10 basketball fans agreed that a player "has a better chance of making a shot after having just made his last two or three shots than he does after having just missed his last two or three shots." Believing in streaks, players will "feed the hot hand" and the coach will bench the player who misses three in a row (Apparently Nate does not believe in streaks).
According to the article, it isn't true. When studying detailed individual shooting records of the Nets, Knicks, Celtics and Cornell University's men and women's team, all were equally likely to score after a miss as they were a make. A typical 50% shooter averages 50% after missing three as well as after making three consecutively. Larry Bird made 88% rom the line after making a free throw, and 91% after missing one. Obviously streaks do occur, but more than people typically expect in random sequences. In any series of 20 shots by a 50% shooter (or coin flips), there is a 50-50 chance of 4 baskets in a row occuring, and quite possible of a streak of 5 or 6.
This is where my fancy Blazersedge training comes in handy. Using critical thinking, I can surmise that a well respected psychologist that speaks of basketball purely in statistics and external observation most likely has little to no experience actually shooting the basketball. Now I am no professional player, I haven't played for even a minor community college, but I think my experience can show a different viewpoint.
Every basketball player (at least every competitive basketball player) has had one of those days where the hoop just looks like an ocean. I'm not even really a 3 pt shooter, prefering to slash and post, but even I have had days like those. I recall the occasional day that the ball just doesn't seem to want to touch the rim. Not only just spotting up from three, but dribbling to step back to the three, turn-around fade, fall-away fading sideways, step back to the NBA three, all hitting the bottom of the net. Only when fading from the NBA three did I lose my accuracy to the point of missing.
It seems to me that our form is rarely exactly the same, but on certain days your muscle memory is spot on to the point where you automatically shooting much more accurately. This point is slightly mired by continuously shooting well while on the move.
NBA players are not necessarily the same, 3 pt specialists focus on keeping their form so picture perfect that form becomes less of an issue. A "streaky" shooter may be more likely than some to get "hot" but also much more likely to get cold and stay cold. I remember reading about Andre Miller practicing his post shots almost mechanically, and would repeatedly score the same way (important for muscle memory). But when a net got stuck up and practice was paused for a moment to pull it down, he missed twice in a row before fine-tuning his shot again.
Due to the mechanical nature of an NBA player's shot, a 50% shooter might really be much more like flipping a coin than it seems from our personal experiences. Even floaters, layups, and fadeaways are so practiced and natural that only an altered shot could be considered abnormal. There is an exception to every rule however, and Martell Webster would be a good example. He has a picture perfect shot, but is very streaky regardless. This can be caused by a number of reasons. Possibly lack of confidence from coming off the bench, becoming cold while on the bench, not recieving the pass at precisely the optimum spot, or most likely, a combination of many factors.
So I ask the most scientific minds I know on the subject, are shooting streaks purely random sequences or is there truth in the fabled "Hot Hand"?
Are shooting streaks random sequences or is there truth in the Hot Hand theory?
Random sequences loosely correlating with his FG% (77 votes)
If you are hot, you're hot (233 votes)
310 total votes