The debate over basketball's "hot hand" phenomenon rages on

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Back in October we told you about an in-depth study of a phenomenon known as "hot hands" — the term sometimes used to describe basketball players who appear to have transcended the limits of their normal hoop-shooting abilities. And after examining free-throw statistics from 6,150 games, the researchers concluded that there is strong evidence for the effect's existence.

But those researchers were only examining free throw data — so does the "hot hand" effect carry over to field goals? A study published in last week's issue of Nature Communications concludes that it doesn't. In fact, a statistical analysis of 332 NBA and WNBA players found that — at least from three-point land — players are actually more likely to drain a shot after missing a basket from long range than they are after making one.


What's more, players don't seem to be conscious of this reversed hot hand effect. Ars Technica's John Timmer writes:

If players learned by experience, they should be able to pick up on [the negative trend] and adjust their behavior accordingly. In fact, they did the exact opposite. Forty-one percent of the time after a player made a three-point shot, they'd attempt another one. If they missed, that rate dropped to 30 percent. The implication here is that the players aren't able to recognize the pattern of misses after successful long-distance shots.

Of course, a player developing cold hands from beyond the arc could stem from any number of things — a defense tightening up its coverage, for example; or a player, having just missed a three-pointer, making a conscious effort to be more careful about lining up the next shot.

[Nature Communications via ars technica]
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