Behind the apparent randomness of a basketball game in the teams self-organization occurs. Interactions between peers and opponents influence each other all the time, and the game itself allows creative behaviors arise. This phenomenon, detected by Spanish researchers after analyzing more than 6,000 NBA games, resembles the constant evolution that must develop to keep living things.

The subjects of the Red Queen, one of the characters in the book Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, have to constantly run to keep up in his country, which does not stop moving. This story has inspired the so-called ‘evolutionary Red Queen hypothesis’, which raises how species simply must improve continuously to maintain their status within the environment in which co-evolve with other living beings.

Now researchers at the University of Las Palmas have observed that something similar happensin basketball, after examining how teams are structured in 6,130 NBA games while evolving the scoreboard.

Basketball teams can be considered self-organizing systems, and enhancing flow of the game when it works

“Many researchers consider it a random sport (governed by a probability distribution Poisson), but the reality is much more complex, as happens in natural systems,” explains Yves de Saá Guerra, co-author of this study, published in the International Journal of Heat and Technology.

The results show that basketball teams can be considered self-organizing systems, as they tend to promote a flow of game (set of actions at a particular time and place) when it works, or close it to create another if necessary, although this process is unpredictable.

Faced with a problem, each team, considered as a system, you can make several valid solutions. For example, instead of passing the ball to a player you can send to another either throw or block, or create space, even choose several actions at once. Own game development team encourages creativity.

“All these processes take place simultaneously and continuously during the playing time; in fact, the ability of new behaviors emerge in teams is what makes sports like this very attractive for the fans and the media, “said De Saa War.

All track to the last minute

The self-organizing teams can be accentuated at any time of the game, but the final minute where it occurs more strongly, especially in the most evenly matched games. “In those final 60 seconds, the game is completely chaotic, but in the scientific sense of the word seems random, meaningless, although it is not,” says De Saa War, which emphasizes the similarity between the Red Queen hypothesis in nature and the fact that both teams try to keep the lead throughout the match to reach the final minute transcendental.

In a predator-prey system, for example, or in a changing natural environment with limited resources, adapting species evolve in their arms race. continually struggle at the highest level only to survive, not to ensure its success. In such cases, a small adaptive advantage can mean a lot.

The evolutionary Red Queen hypothesis is also detected in basketball

“Similarly, the basketball teams must fight hard just to reach the last minute, and any advantage, however slight it may seem, can be critical at that time,” the researcher says “I got to this point does not matter: any failure, headstart, oversight, etc. can determine the outcome.”

In the NBA, the most competitive games are decided in those final 60 seconds when the faults play a major role (one 94.02% of the points scored in this period). This is where collaboration, intercommunication, mutual support, game strategies, or in one word: self-organization among the elements of the system, may be the key.

As in natural systems, those teams that best fit any circumstance that this will have more chances to win. This phenomenon can also be understood from a more philosophical perspective, where the important thing is the group and not the ego. As Phil Jackson, former Bulls coach Chigaco said, “I basketball is at the service of us,” ie, cooperate and evolve without reciprocity, without expecting anything personal in return, just for the sake of the team.

Bibliographic reference:
Juan Manuel Martín González, Yves de Saá Guerra, Juan Manuel García-Manso, Enrique Arriaza. “Design and flow in basketball”. International Journal of Heat and Technology 34 (Special Issue 1): S51-S58, 2016.

Type: News
Date: 03/29/2016
Source: Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology
City: Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain
Type: Ministry of Education

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