# The physics of the 3-point shot

##### March 25, 2014

He may not see very many basketball players in his classroom, but Creighton University physics professor Gintaras Duda, Ph.D., says they are instinctual physicists because of what it takes to make the perfect shot on the court, particularly the 3-pointer.

What makes the perfect 3-pointer? Well, there is the angle the player takes on the 3-point line and the arc of the ball, which is the path the basketball flies from the time it leaves the shooter's hand until it arrives at the basket.

According to Duda and the research he has read, the lowest arc is 33 degrees for even a hope of making a 3-point shot, but with an arc of 45 degrees, a speed of just under 20 miles per hour and two revolutions per second of spin, at 20.9 feet from the basket, the player has the makings of the perfect 3-point shot.

While some people say gravity is the only thing affecting the ball once it is in the air, Duda is not so sure.

In the book The Physics of Basketball, the author, John Fantanella, explains the Magnus effect, the backspin which gives the ball a little bit of lift allowing for the slowest possible speed and a less violent rebound if it hits the backboard or rim and may even allow the ball to go in the net.

"I've heard about it in baseball, you know the curve ball that pitchers throw to curve one way or the other over the plate, but I really didn't realize how important it is in basketball," said Duda. "On certain shots, like the free throw and the 3-pointer, you want a slower speed on the ball for that soft shot that has a better chance of landing in the basket than a faster ball with no spin."

In other words, avoiding the brick, that shot with the distinctive sound that lets you know the ball is not going in at all. It takes practice for the player to find that perfect shot. After all, consistency equals reliability, but by finding that perfect shot, the player has found the right speed, the right angle of approach, and the perfect arc of the .

Creighton All-American Doug McDermott has that consistency. McDermott, who ranks among the top college scorers of all time, shot 45 percent from behind the arc. Teammate Ethan Wragge is the team's leading 3-point shooter, hitting 47.3 from 3-point.

Duda, the 2013 U.S. Professor of the Year, said he will be watching March Madness with renewed interest and understanding this weekend, and he's hoping the Bluejays get an A in physics for netting 3-point shots.

Explore further: Nothing But Net: The Physics of Free-Throw Shooting

## Related Stories

#### Nothing But Net: The Physics of Free-Throw Shooting

November 4, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Pay attention, Shaq: Two North Carolina State University engineers have figured out the best way to shoot a free throw - a frequently underappreciated skill that gets more important as the game clock winds ...

#### Best 'sweet spots' on the backboard

March 10, 2011

According to Larry Hunter, the act of banking a basketball off the backboard and into the hoop is becoming a lost art.

#### Basketball shot selection analyzed mathematically

August 5, 2011

In the sport of basketball players are constantly faced with the choice of whether to shoot for the hoop when a shot opportunity arises or to hold on to the ball and hope a better opportunity will arise. Now a theoretical ...

#### Heads up Kobe Bryant! Research shows that trying for another 3-pointer is a mistake

December 7, 2011

Basketball fans everywhere recognize the following scenario: Their favorite player scores a three-point shot. A short time later he regains control of the ball. But does the fact that he scored the last time make him more ...

#### Optimal basketball shooting rate proposed based on mathematical model

January 25, 2012

NBA players may be too conservative with their shots, according to a comparison with a theoretical model describing shot selection reported Jan. 25 in the online journal PLoS ONE.

#### Defensive role swaps prove predictive of 3-point success

February 27, 2014

Everyone knows a basketball player is more likely to miss a three-point shot if a defender is in his face, but a new automated method for analyzing team formations, created by Disney Research Pittsburgh, shows how players ...

## Recommended for you

#### Squishy transistors—a device concept for fast, low-power electronics

September 4, 2015

An international team of researchers from the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), IBM, the University of Edinburgh and Auburn University have shown that a new device concept - a 'squishy' transistor - can overcome the predicted ...

#### New OLED findings move flexible lighting technology toward commercial feasibility

September 4, 2015

Imagine illuminating your home or business with flat, inexpensive panels that are environmentally friendly, easy on your eyes, and energy-efficient because they create minimal heat.

#### 'Littlest' quark-gluon plasma revealed by physicists using Large Hadron Collider

September 3, 2015

Researchers at the University of Kansas working with an international team at the Large Hadron Collider have produced quark-gluon plasma—a state of matter thought to have existed right at the birth of the universe—with ...

#### X-ray study provides direct look at magnetic property critical to spintronics

September 4, 2015

Researchers at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have for the first time seen a spin current – an inherent magnetic property common to all electrons – as it travels across materials. The ...

#### Long-sought chiral anomaly detected in crystalline material

September 3, 2015

A study by Princeton researchers presents evidence for a long-sought phenomenon—first theorized in the 1960s and predicted to be found in crystals in 1983—called the "chiral anomaly" in a metallic compound of sodium and ...

#### New law implies thermodynamic time runs backwards inside black holes

September 3, 2015

(Phys.org)—Black holes are known to have many strange properties, such as that they allow nothing—not even light—to escape after falling in. A lesser known but equally bizarre property is that black holes appear to ...