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Physics of Basketball



I've been playing basketball for as long as I can remember, and it has always been a huge part of my life. Now that I think about it, there is physics everywhere in the sport of basketball. Every play of basketball always has at least one person jumping which involves a lot of physics. When a basketball player jumps, it almost looks like they are suspended in mid-air at the top of their jump. This is called hang time and is a consequence of projectile motion. Professional basketball players like kobe bryant make it look easy and have great hang time.

When a basketball player jumps there is a horizontal and vertical in the jump velocity at take off. The magnitude of the vertical velocity when a player takes off will determine how much hang time they have. Since gravity works in the vertical direction, it will put a force on the player to bring him back down to ground. This showing that the vertical velocity after the player leaves the ground will change with time. But since there is no force like gravity working in the horizontal direction, the horizontal velocity will remain constant throughout the jump.

A chart the would show a basketball players jump would look something like this.


There is a formula that would help you solve for hang time and that formula is d=vit + .5at^2. d would equal vertical jump distance. v1 is the vertical component of jump velocity. t is time. g is the acceleration due to gravity. If you have enough information, you can plug what you know into this equation and find out what you need to. Overall the sport of basketball has physics everywhere, the art of jumping and hang time is just one small part.


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I wish i knew about the physics portion of playing basketball when i played, maybe it would have helped me be a better athelete at playing basketball! Great connection to physics!

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Can't say as it helps much Christina.  I play one basketball game every year and even with a basic understanding of physics, I'm still pretty terrible.  Somewhere, perhaps, there must be a little element of skill, talent, and practice that contributes to overall success.  Who'd have thunk it?

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I dont believe that Lebron James thinks about physics when he plays. Basketball is completely based on skill and talent.

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