Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Physics Behind Hangtime

If an object falls at the same rate it rises, how can basketball players hang in the air? In fact, it is an illusion. Gravity is always pulling a body towards the earth, but gravity works in an "up-down" (Y) direction. When a basketball player jumps towards the basket, he is moving in both the Y plane, and the forward-backward (X) plane. While gravity is pulling him down in the Y plane, it is not affecting his motion in the X plane - allowing for the illusion of the player hanging in the air. If you watch a dunk in slow motion, you will notice that the player is actually falling when he dunks the ball.

The trick to hangtime, then, is to maximize both X and Y vectors - by jumping off the tip of your toe at a 45° angle.

Watch Clyde Drexler's unbelievable hangtime.

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