How Is Math Used in Basketball?

Mathematical principles permeate virtually all aspects of basketball, but fast-break ratios and the use of percentages are some of the most obvious examples. On a fast break, the team with more players has the advantage, so smart players are always assessing the relative number of players on each team during a fast break. Percentages are commonly used in the game to demonstrate trends and make predictions.

Basketball players use percentages to determine whether a given shot, defense or position has a high likelihood of success or failure. For example, if a player makes about half of the shots attempted, then the player has what is called a field goal percentage of 50, meaning that the player successfully scores a basket on 50 percent of the player's attempts. Coaches and players consider these percentages when deciding what plays to use.

Additionally, bank shots require the use of geometry. Any time the basketball hits the backboard, it bounces off the backboard at the same, but opposite, angle from which it was thrown. For example, if a player throws the ball from 45 degrees to the left of the basket, it will bounce to the right at a 45-degree angle. With practice, basketball players learn to see these angles intuitively.