Stephen Curry's three-point shooting has left the NBA community amazed for years. He has officially become the best three-point shooter in NBA history after he surpassed Ray Allen on the all-time three-pointers made list for regular season and playoffs.
It is absurd to think that some of the made shots are lucky shots, which is why understanding the science of his shots makes so much sense.
According to Wall Street Journal, Rachel Marty Pyke, a cancer researcher wrote a report and presented it to NBA executives after using a shot-tracking system developed by her father to track 20 million basketball shots. She proposed that they rethink the way shooting is measured in the league.
"We conclude by encouraging coaches and players to re-evaluate their largely anecdotal assessment methods and implement more effective data-driven methods to enhance shooter development," she wrote in her proposal.
During the summer, Curry embraced this shot-tracking technology to practice his three-point shooting.
A shot that strays nearly 5 inches away from the center of the hoop in either direction can still be a swish. But that margin of error in his left-right positioning was much too high for Curry. So last summer, as he shot threes in the NBA offseason, he gave himself only 3 inches of wiggle room. He was even more demanding when shooting from closer: Curry’s leeway for his free throws was 2 inches.
These weren’t arbitrary numbers. The massive collection of information at their disposal allowed the data scientists at Noah Basketball, the company behind this shot-tracking technology, to explore all kinds of fascinating questions that never before had empirical answers. When they looked at millions of 3-pointers from NBA players, they found that 79% of shots at the dead center of the rim went in, but there was little difference up to one or two inches off center (79% and 77%) and only a minimal reduction out to three inches (74%).
“But when you get to four or five inches,” said John Carter, the company’s CEO, “it’s like falling off a cliff.”
The result has been extraordinary. We have seen Curry launch from any area of the court comfortably, turning away before the shot falls because he knows exactly how it will end.
Curry has made 67 shots on 173 attempts so far this season. While it might not seem like a good output, the shooting stroke is evident, and it gets a lot harder with a hand in your face.