How It Works: Projectile Motion in Basketball

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Physics is a part of everyday life. It is evident in the modern technological devices we use in every day experiences and objects around us. Although physics is understood to be only useful in the classroom, physics can also be applied to one the most popular activities on the planet, basketball. Whether jumping for the ball, or leaping for a slam dunk, the human body follows the same laws of projectile motion as do other objects. The sport that includes shooting, passing, running, and dribbling involves topics covered in physics such as force, friction, effects of air resistance, velocity, air pressure and energy. Basketball also involves factors such as projectile motion in making a basket, gravity and its effects on passing and dribbling, and Newton’s First and Third Law on passing and a number of others.
Passing is perhaps one of the most important components of the sport. A game would be impossible without the assistance of passing and team work. To successfully carryout a pass, many factors have to be taken into account. In order to begin a pass, first a player must exert a force on the basketball. Once the ball leaves the hands of the player, it becomes a projectile. A projectile is acted upon by two independent forces: the x and y components. The x component is the force exerted on the ball by the player while the y component is pulled by the force of gravity, -9.8m/s². As a result of the independent components, the ball will travel in a downward parabolic path, or trajectory. Since the ball travels a downward path, the player throws the ball towards a target located a little higher than where the player wishes the ball would go in order to compensate for the downward path. Another factor that affects the successfulnes...

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... the player’s shoes must have good traction, friction that allows movement. Good traction means that the coefficient of friction between the shoe and the floor must be high. A player must also use static friction when planting their feet in order to stop and turn without sliding across the floor due to static friction being greater than the sliding friction.
In conclusion, physics is involved in all things around us. Whether in a classroom, in a car, or playing basketball physics concepts can be applied to the action. Although it is not very practical for a person to stop and calculate the angle, velocity, and position, the use of physics does make it understandable and possible. As much as the physics of basketball seems insignificant and ludicrous, to calculate the principles are in fact very valuable to a player without them even knowing they are doing physics.

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