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08-09-2012, 11:55 PM
Czech Your Math
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Originally Posted by alanschu View Post
Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points one game, and in doing so he ended up shooting an uncharacteristic 28/32 from the free throw line. He was roughly a 50% free throw shooter (using 50% for simplicity), and it we're just using a random variable to determine the likelihood of him going 28/32 from the free throw line, then the odds of him doing that are about 0.000837% (underestimate since his FT% over his career was 51.1%)
In this case, I don't think it's as unlikely as it first appears.

Wilt shot 61.3% from the FT line that year, which increases his chances of doing that dramatically. I calculate ~3%, but may be off in that calculation. He also shot 58.2% two years earlier and 59.3% the next season, so he was better at FTs early in his career.

Also, there may be other factors at work due to the unusual circumstances. Adrenalin could be a factor, although one might not expect that to help with something like shooting FTs. Because there was constant fouling by both teams in the latter stages of the game, perhaps Wilt had more rest and could relax more at the line. Also, because he was shooting so many FGs and FTs, perhaps he got more in the rhythm.

Originally Posted by alanschu View Post
It's not something that appears to be particularly measurable, and very likely not something that can be easily predicted, but at this point I'm not keen on outright dismissing it. Sam Gagner's 8 point night is likely something he'll never do again and the odds that he ever accomplish it in his career were already quite low, but are there personal factors from within him that may have tipped the scales rather than pure random variation?
This is much more difficult to explain. The one minor factor I notice upon cursory review is something outside Gagner's control: his opponent. Chicago was one of the weaker teams in GA, finishing 22nd, but still gave up less than 3 GA/game. However, they were going through a bad streak during which they gave up 3+ goals in 9 straight games, including 32 in 7 games, mostly during a western road trip. This was also after the all-star game, so they had only played 1 game in the previous 8 days, and could have been a bit rusty. After almost a week off, they played an OT game at Vancouver, had a day between the game in Edmonton and had a game the following night in Calgary. Still, it's hard to really explain how he scored 8 points in one game.

Sometimes athletes and artists just get in the zone. There are many anecdotes of an athlete having the flu and having a great performance, or an artist with a fever or illness writing a masterpiece. I think there's a lot of luck involved, but there are often other factors involved, which could increase the chances of such things happening. There may have been something going on with Gagner that we don't know, even something seemingly irrelevant, that at least would help to explain such a performance a little more.

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