Revisiting the Hot Hand Theory with Free Throw Data in a Multivariate Framework
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Despite the conventional wisdom among players and fans of the existence of the “hot hand” in basketball, studies have found only no evidence or weak evidence for the hot hand in game situations, although stronger evidence in controlled settings. These studies have considered both free throws and field goals. Given the heterogeneous nature of field goals and several potential sources that could cause a positive or negative correlation between consecutive shots (such as having a weak defender), free throws may provide for a more controlled setting to test for the hot hand. Almost all studies have tested for the hot hand at the individual level in univariate frameworks, and as some have pointed out, the studies may not have had enough power to detect the hot hand. In this study, I use a sample based on every free throw attempted during the 2005-06 NBA season. I used a multivariate framework with individual player fixed effects. I find that hitting the first free throw is associated with a 2- to 3-percentage-points higher probability of hitting the second free throw. Furthermore, the infrequent foul-shooters have more streakiness in their shooting than frequent foul-shooters.
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