Can NBA Shooters Really Get Hot or Cold?

January 24th, 2015 by Adam Fromal Leave a reply »

Your favorite NBA player has drilled his last four shots. 

"He's heating up!" you think to yourself, eagerly awaiting the next time the ball ends up in his hands. Surely that upcoming attempt is going to be good, ripping through the bottom of the twine for more points. After all, he's catching fire and the points are going to flow in bunches. 

Problem is, you're counting on a phenomenon that might not actually exist. It seems as though professional basketball players can get hot or cold, falling prey to streakiness that either aids or hinders their performance on the court, but that's only because of pure randomness. Sure, players are going to have hot and cold streaks, but there's not much statistical evidence that some players are subject to them more often than other similar players. 

This—the "myth of the hot hand," as it's known in statistical circles—has been discussed quite often. It's been the subject of much study and debate over the years. We've even seen papers published and presented at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, like this one by Harvard's Andrew Bocskocsky, ...

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