ORU math prof has formula for basketball success

Friday, February 10th 2006, 11:00 am
By: News On 6

Most mathematicians believe they can prove, and even improve most anything using math. How about improving someone's basketball shooting with calculus. An ORU mathematics professor says it can be done.

News on 6 reporter Rick Wells had to go see for himself.

"Z2 cross Z3 must be isomorphic to what." What? Dr Andrew Lang is an associate professor of Mathematics at ORU and right now he's speaking a language most of us don't understand. But he loves basketball and has created a mathematical model to improve free throw shooting.

Shaquille O'Neal is a notoriously bad free throw shooter. Dr. Lang says mathematically it doesn't make sense. "Mathematically, the taller you are more likely you are to make free throws, at least mathematically."

We got together in the ORU Aerobic Center so he could show me what he was talking about. It's all about the angle above horizontal where you release the ball. For every individual's height, the angle is different. For Shaq it should be 52.37 degrees.

Dr Lang ripped off about 6 in a row so it must work. "When you play pick up basketball we don't shoot foul shots, so I don't get to practice this very often." But he's proven it in the calculations.

He published his mathematical model in a prestigious mathematics journal back in December. Included is a chart showing the angle for each different height, also shows the release velocity for each angle in meters per second.

So theoretically... "You'll make the shot every time." Yeah, easy.

His paper was only published back in December so it's early yet, but Dr. Lang would love an opportunity to prove it with real players on the court.