Performance Under Pressure in the NBA
Journal of Sports Economics, June 2011
22 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2010 Last revised: 5 Jun 2011
Date Written: June 14, 2010
We analyze the effects of pressure on performance using National Basketball Association (NBA) free throw data from the 2002-03 through 2009-10 seasons. We find strong evidence that players choke under pressure – they shoot 5-10% worse than normal in the final seconds of very close games. Choking is more likely for players who are worse overall free throw shooters, and on the second shot of a pair after the first shot is missed. In general, performance declines as pressure increases (as game time remaining decreases, and as the score margin decreases, whether the shooter’s team is winning or losing). However, we find no evidence of choking when games are tied in the final 15 seconds. We also fail to find evidence of performance under pressure being affected by home status, attendance, and whether or not the game is in the playoffs.
Keywords: Choking, Anxiety, Pressure, Clutch, NBA
JEL Classification: L83, D03, M54, J24
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation