NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Hot Shots: An Analysis of the 'Hot Hand' in NBA Field Goal and Free Throw Shooting

Robert M. Lantis, Erik T. Nesson

NBER Working Paper No. 26510
Issued in November 2019, Revised in March 2020
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

We investigate the hot hand hypothesis using detailed data on free throws and field goal attempts for the 2004-2005 through 2015-2016 NBA regular seasons. Free throws represent a more controlled setting, allowing a closer examination of the potential physiological mechanisms behind success in repeated motions, while field goal attempts represent the setting most observers have in mind when commenting on a player’s repeated shooting success. We examine these two settings together, within the same players in the same games, permitting a more comprehensive analysis of the hot hand. We find a small hot hand effect for free throws, which more than doubles for longer streaks of consecutively made free throws. However, if a player makes a field goal, he is no more or less likely to make his next field goal attempt, and longer streaks of consecutively made field goals reduce the probability that a player makes his next field goal attempt. These results are robust to a large number of controls, including controlling for the characteristics of the previous shots.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w26510

 
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