Heat Check: New Evidence on the Hot Hand in Basketball

30 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2014

Date Written: August 16, 2014


The vast literature on the hot hand fallacy in basketball rests on the assumption that shot selection is independent of player-perceived hot or coldness. In this paper, we challenge the assumption of independence using a novel dataset of over 83,000 shots from the 2012-2013 NBA season, combined with optical tracking data of both the players and the ball. We use this data to show that players who have exceeded their expected shooting percentage over recent shots shoot from significantly further away, face tighter defense, are more likely to take their team’s next shot, and overall attempt more difficult shots. In other words, we show that the independence assumption fails. We then turn to the hot hand itself and show that players who are outperforming (i.e. are “hot”) are more likely to make their next shot if we control for the difficulty of that shot. We estimate a 1.2% increase in the likelihood of the typical player making his next shot for each additional prior shot he made.

Keywords: hot hand, basketball, independence, behavioral economics, streakiness

JEL Classification: D83, D84, L83

Suggested Citation

Bocskocsky, Andrew and Ezekowitz, John and Stein, Carolyn, Heat Check: New Evidence on the Hot Hand in Basketball (August 16, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2481494 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2481494

Andrew Bocskocsky

Independent ( email )

John Ezekowitz

Independent ( email )

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