Time Stood Still At a Basketball Game

Mon, 27 Dec 2010 12:18:32 +0000

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Last Tuesday night, December 21, at the 2010 Gossner’s Invitational vs. Utah State University, time stood still as a free throw ball appears to defy the law of gravity by sitting frozen on the ball rim:

As recounted by Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo!’s The Dagger, Idaho State’s Kamil “Gawrzydek’s first foul shot bounces high off the back rim, deadens on the front rim and remains stationary there for almost two seconds before finally falling through the hoop to the disbelief of everyone in attendance. It hung on the front rim long enough that a Utah State player underneath the hoop actually had time to wave his arms in an effort to generate a strong enough breeze to blow the ball out of the cylinder.”

So Eisenberg sent the YouTube clip to John Fontanella, a physics professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, former NAIA All-American in the 1960s, and author of the book “The Physics of Basketball.” Here is his explanation:

“There’s absolutely no reason the ball couldn’t actually do that if all the conditions were right because you have two round surfaces. As long as the middle of the ball is directly above the middle of the rim, theoretically it can stay there as long as it likes until it’s disturbed by something. Maybe the conditions were just right.”

Fontanella compared it to a player possessing the ability to balance the ball on his index finger without spinning it first. He suggested a sticky substance on the ball or an air conditioning vent blowing straight down on the rim could have contributed, but noted that it’s theoretically possible for the ball to remain stuck on the front rim interminably. But he said he’s only seen anything like it a couple times before at most. 

“A chance in a million, I guess,” Fontanella said. “It’s like it rolled up to the top of a hill and just sat there. Eventually there was just enough of a disturbance, somebody stomped on the floor or a fan did something to shake it off the top.”

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