The Physics of Basketball
There are many aspects to the game of basketball and physics can be applied to all of them. Although to be good at basketball it is not necessary to play it from a physics point of view. Basketball players become good by developing muscle memory for the actions that must be performed in the game of basketball from years of practice. Nevertheless knowing some of the physics in the game of basketball can help a good player be a better player. In this paper I will cover the three most important aspects of the game, shooting, dribbling and passing.
The most important part of the game of basketball is shooting the basketball, after all the object of the game is to put the basketball through the basket. A shot is taken by a player pushing on the ball and launching it toward the basket and upon the ball hitting the rim or backboard physics refers to this action as a contact force. Using this concept of contact force a shot can be calculated exactly. From a player’s height, the mass of the ball and a given position on the court which would include the distance from the basket it is possible to calculate the exact angle and force the shooter must apply to make a basket every time he or she shoots the ball. Of course if it were this easy basketball would not be as fun to watch or play. The problem with hitting a shot every time with the calculated angle and force is that the ball would have to travel toward the basket with the exact angle and force calculated for that particular shot. What makes this difficult is that the muscles in our body would have to be controlled flawlessly to push the ball with the exact amount of force and to give the ball the exact angle that is needed every time a shot is taken which would be very hard to do.
There are many ways to shoot the ball but physics can cover most of the shooting aspect of the game by looking at the shot in two different ways. The first description of a shot was described earlier as simply a shot but more specifically can be referenced to a jump shot. The second way to look at shooting the basketball using physics is referred to as a layup. The difference between the two is that a jump shot has little or no horizontal movement toward the basket. Instead the jump shot relies strictly on vertical movement. Specifically the shooter will be stopped and jump using two feet straight up and down vertically and push the basketball off the finger tips to obtain the force and angle to get the ball to the basket. The layup on the other hand is done by the shooter jumping off of one foot while running. The shooter jumps vertically and uses the momentum from running to propel horizontally toward the basket. The shooter is generally closer to the basket while shooting a layup versus a jump shot. The same physics that were applied to the jump shot are applied to the layup as well. There is still an angle and force that the ball would need to travel toward the basket but since the...