The science of basketball players on a hot streak.

By Seriously Science | May 14, 2013 12:00 pm

Photo: flickr/rrescot

Is there such a thing as a hot streak in sports? Science says no, but according to this paper, basketball players and coaches certainly believe there is. By carefully studying the records for a full season of the NBA, the author found that a belief in “hotness” has a big influence on how the game is played, from how the next shot is taken to whether a player is replaced. I always wondered whether people in sports are superstitious…

Perceived Hotness Affects Behavior of Basketball Players and Coaches.

“Although “hot hands” in basketball are illusory, the belief in them is so robust that it not only has sparked many debates but may also affect the behavior of players and coaches. On the basis of an entire National Basketball Association season’s worth of data, the research reported here shows that even a single successful shot suffices to increase a player’s likelihood of taking the next team shot, increase the average distance from which this next shot is taken, decrease the probability that this next shot is successful, and decrease the probability that the coach will replace the player.”

Related content:
NCBI ROFL: More closely matched sports teams play dirtier.
NCBI ROFL: Irrelevant events affect voters’ evaluations of government performance.
NCBI ROFL: World Cup Week: Choose wisely, rooting for the winning team DOES make you more manly.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: playing with balls, super powers
  • enzomedici

    Actually, science says yes. Take a random number generator and generate 100 zeroes and ones. You will find streaks of zeroes or ones that come up 7-10 times in a row in just a hundred attempts. These are hot streaks. Pretty simple really.

  • Cain Warren

    When your playing well you simply know your ON FIRE, your ON SONG. Its your day, nothing is going wrong. You know this because this is a rare feeling. And then to have a whole team feeling this feeling makes it a good win. And this usually occurs when your playing a top player or team, it brings out the best in you, the best of your ability is thrust in your opponents face. They may be the number 1 team on the ladder, but thats because they are good, they are not ON SONG every week, so you had to step up and show them they may be good but when it comes down to it you are the one that’s ON FIRE! You cant do no wrong. That’s where this situation awareness of AWESOMNESS stems from. Science…pfft….they cant explain everything.

  • Neva Lott



Seriously, Science?

Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
Follow us on Twitter: @srslyscience.
Send us paper suggestions: srslyscience[at]

See More


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar