Basketball – Inside the 3-Point Shot

Stephen Curry by Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (Stephen Curry) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
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About This Episode

It has been said that Stephen Curry has “broken the game” of basketball. Broken or not, his record setting skill at hitting 3-point shots is certainly revolutionizing play at all levels of the sport, from the NBA and the NCAA to playgrounds and the streets. In this episode of Playing with Science, hosts Gary O’Reilly and Chuck Nice hit the court to find out what makes Steph so successful, with guest physicist Prof. John Fontanella, author of The Physics of Basketball, and Columbia University Lions Head Men’s Basketball Coach Jim Engles. You’ll hear about what goes into a jump shot, and why most of Curry’s 3-pointers are actually 1-hand set shots. John explains why set shots are more energy efficient than jumpers, touching on both the conservation of energy, the application of force, and smoother transitions. Discover the perfect launch angles for 6-footers from the foul line, shots from “downtown,” and shots from what is quickly becoming known as “Curry Land.” Explore the importance of wrist snaps, spin (AKA the Magnus Effect), and the ball rotation speeds for the perfect shot. Learn the key to free throws, and why Steph is the 4th best foul shooter in NBA history. Finally, Gary and Chuck ask Head Coach Jim Engles about the impact of Steph Curry on college players – and what makes a great shooter in the first place. You’ll hear how players like Curry spread the court, shifting the balance from size to skill, allowing for more skill players to rise to the top, even ones who are “short” by pro-basketball standards. Plus, comedian James L. Mattern is back to compare Stephen Curry to another famous revolutionary, Alexander Hamilton.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Basketball – Inside the 3-Point Shot.

In This Episode

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