Upon witnessing a series of outstanding (or awful) performances, a sports fan or announcer may wonder, What are the odds of that happening? In fact, statisticians have shown that, for the most part, athletic streaks occur about as often as would be expected by random chance. If one flips a coin a thousand times, many “streaks” of consecutive heads (or tails) will occur along the way. This counterintuitive finding implies that the notion of momentum in sports is greatly overstated.After a brief initial foundation on the study of streaks and relevant methods of statistical analysis, Alan Reifman focuses on actual sports streaks, from the famous—Joe DiMaggio getting at least one hit in fifty-six consecutive games in 1941 and the Los Angeles Lakers winning thirty-three straight games in the 1971–72 season—to the less well-known, such as the University of Dayton men’s basketball team going 0-for-24 on three-point shot attempts in a 2008 game. Reifman also examines psychological and physiological mechanisms in sports performance, as well as the implications of those mechanisms for coaching and sport psychology practice. Thought-provoking for stats freaks and regular fans alike, Hot Hand illuminates one of the most fascinating and little-understood phenomena in sports.
Alan Reifman teaches in the College of Human Sciences at Texas Tech University and writes the popular blog Hot Hand. He lives in Lubbock, Texas.