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The Physics of Basketball Essays

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The Physics of Basketball


Introduction

Any child can pick up a basketball, bounce it a few times, and throw it at the hoop without realizing the complex physics he is involving himself in. However, a greater understanding of the sport can be gained by applying the principles of physics to these actions. Through this paper I will be examining the physics of dribbling and shooting. For the equations, I will use a standard men’s basketball with a mass of 25 oz. (0.7 kg) and a diameter of 9.39”.

Dribbling

If the basketball was simply dropped from a height of 1 meter with no initial push from the dribbler and rebounded from the floor in a perfectly elastic collision, Mechanical Energy for the system would be conserved (1). However, the collision is not completely elastic and the dribbler pushes the ball with an initial force to ensure that it returns to his hand. To simplify the process I will first consider a situation in which the ball is allowed to fall freely from a height of 1 meter and has a perfectly elastic collision with the floor. After that I will take the true nature of the collision with the floor and the force applied by the dribbler into consideration.

Because Mechanical Energy (ME) is equal to Kinetic Energy (KE) plus Gravitational Potential Energy (GPE) and Mechanical Energy is conserved, I know that the initial KE + GPE at 1 meter equals the KE + GPE just before it impacts the ground. If KE = ½ mv2 and initial velocity is zero, then the initial Kinetic Energy is zero. GPE would equal mass X gravity X height. Assuming mass is 0.7 kg, gravity is 9.8 m/s2 , and the height is 1 meter, then GPE is equal to 7.0 kg * m2/s2. Conversely, the GPE would be zero just before impact because height is zero but KE wo...


... middle of paper ...


...with no spin (1). Therefore, giving the ball backspin decreases the force necessary to propel a basketball a certain distance because it will not fall as quickly.

Understanding the physics of shooting and dribbling a basketball may not increase the enjoyment of watching the NBA finals, but it may help improve a basketball player’s skill. If he can find the right force necessary to propel the ball back to his hand when dribbling and realizes the importance of giving the ball a chance to fall down into the rim, he will be better off for the next game.

Works Cited

1.Kirkpatrick, L. D., & Wheeler, G. F. (2001). Physics: A World View. Orlando: Harcourt College Publishers.

2.How Things Work. Louis A. Bloomfield. Retrieved April 2003. http://howthingswork.virginia.edu/bouncing_ball.html

3. Spalding basketball - http://www.spalding.com/faq/basketball.html#Q7


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