“Is Basketball Scoring Just a Random Walk?” by Sid Redner (Boston University and Santa Fe Institute)

Thursday, April 19, 2018 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Physics and Astronomy Colloquium

Thursdays, 4:00-5:00 pm

1-434 Physics and Astronomy (map)
Reception from 3:30-4:00 p.m.
(unless otherwise posted)

Guest Speaker: Sid Redner (Boston University and Santa Fe Institute)

Talk Title:  “Is Basketball Scoring Just a Random Walk?”


Watching basketball is nearly the same as watching repeating coin tossings!  By analyzing recently available data from recent NBA basketball seasons, basketball scoring during a game is well described by a continuous-time anti-persistent random walk, with essentially no temporal correlations between successive scoring events.  We show how to calibrate this model to account for many statistical season-long metrics of NBA basketball.  As further fillustrations of this random-walk picture, we show that the distribution of times when the last lead change occurs and the distribution of times when the score difference is maximal are both given by the celebrated arcsine law -- a beautiful and surprising property of random walks.  We also use the random-walk picture to construct the criterion for when a lead of a specified size is "safe" as a function of the time remaining in the game.  The obvious application to game-time betting is left as an exercise for the interested.


For more information, contact Jay Hauser

We thank the following people for their contributions to the wine fund for the post-colloquium reception:
Prof. Dolores Bozovic, Prof. Robijn Bruinsma, Prof. Wesley Campbell, Prof. Bob Cousins, Prof. Jay Hauser, Prof. Eric Hudson, Robert Huff, Prof. HongWen Jiang, Prof. Alex Kusenko, Prof. John Miao, Prof. George Morales, Prof. Pietro Musumeci, Prof. Christoph Niemann, Prof. Rene Ong, Prof. James Rosenzweig, Prof. David Saltzberg, and Prof. Jean Turner.



1-434 PAB