Slam Dunk Science (Part 1)

Slamdunk Science on TuneIn at SXSW, LtoR: Chuck Nice, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Caron Butler, Michael Rapaport, Gary O’Reilly. Credit: TuneIn.

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About This Episode

This week’s episode of Playing with Science is another of our special podcasts recorded live on the TuneIn stage at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. Hosts Chuck Nice and Gary O’Reilly welcome former NBA All-Star Caron Butler, actor Michael Rapaport, the co-host of the Two Man Weave podcast on TuneIn, and our own Neil deGrasse Tyson to discuss the science behind one of the most dramatic shots in basketball: the slam dunk. Explore the role gravity, physics and the backboard play in scoring, and the even bigger role experience and “being nasty” play in rebounding. You’ll learn the three secrets to good rebounding from Caron, and why he thinks Russell Westbrook is the best rebounder in the game right now. New Yorkers Michael and Neil reminisce about the glory days of the Knicks, when they won it all in 1973 with Hall of Famers Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, Jerry Lucas and the rest. You’ll hear how Neil ended up wearing Walt Frazier’s used Pumas, and Michael explains why basketball is “part of the fabric and the architecture of New York City.” Find how the game has changed since the 70s, becoming faster and looser and shifting to more perimeter shooting in the league’s quest to give the fans higher scoring games. Caron describes how when he played, hand checking helped keep superstars like Jordan, Kobe and Iverson in line. Now Caron, who learning to compete as a teenager playing against adults where the rule was, ‘No blood, no foul,’ says, “The game has gone soft…You blow on a guy, you don’t gargle with Listerine, it’s a foul.” Discover how the game also changed around 2010, when analytics started replacing old school experience in the NBA the same way it did during the “Money Ball” era of baseball. Neil argues that more information gives you an advantage, while Michael, a Fantasy Football champion, points out the limits of data and the importance of being able to make a gut decision. You’ll also learn what “bird watching” is, why anyone should be able to drain shots when they’re “naked in the gym,” and why the most embarrassing thing you can do on the court is to miss is a slam dunk. And that’s just Part 1 of Slam Dunk Science. Come back next Wednesday for Part 2.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Slam Dunk Science (Part 1).

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