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Whenever I watch a basketball match I see how the audience tries hard to distract an opponent player who is going to attempt a free throw shot:

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I assume this can be decomposed in multiple statistics, but let's focus on the main one: is the free throw percentage of a player higher when playing in their stadium?

I found some nice statistics, but could not find any splitting in home/away:

  • 2
    I found Pau Gasol career splits on basketball reference, and home vs road FT percentage is .759 and .751 respectively. That doesn't suggest much of a difference. Kobe Bryant played more road games than home, and his career difference is .006 in favor of home. Steve Nash and Stephen Curry have a .003 difference in favor of home. Kevin Durant has a .002 difference in favor of road. The biggest gap I found was LeBron James at .02 in favor of home. – user527 Oct 27 '16 at 13:50
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    @ᴍᴀsᴛᴇʀᴍɪɴᴅ_ᴇᴅ thanks, this is precious information that in fact surprises me. I would've thought the effect would be bigger. The difference between play-olff matches might be bigger, who knows. – fedorqui Oct 27 '16 at 13:59
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    By the way: I am not familiar to this vocabulary and English is not my first language, so feel free to correct whatever incorrectness I may have written here! – fedorqui Oct 28 '16 at 6:50
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    As long as there's no confusion, then I don't think there's anything to worry about. I knew what you meant by "local" vs "visiting." I used the terms "home" and "road" because that's how basketball reference defines it. I would have used "home" and "away." – user527 Oct 28 '16 at 12:17
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    What an interesting question. I would bet most athletes over age 12 can tune out the crowd, but that guy might throw me off. – Val Oct 28 '16 at 14:17
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Is the free throw percentage of a player higher when playing in their stadium?

That's tough to say. At a glance in the NBA, it seems to be, but not by much. However, there isn't a hard and fast rule that says FT% is higher when a player is playing in their home stadium.

For this exercise, I selected six NBA players with 2,500+ free throw attempts at home and 2,500+ free throw attempts on the road and viewed their statistics on Basketball Reference (as of October 30, 2016). Two players have a FT% greater than .800, two players have a FT% between .700 and .800, and two players have a FT% less than .600. The reason for these different "categories" are to detect variance (if any exists).

Player        | HFT  | HFTA | HFT% | AFT  | AFTA | AFT% | DIFF%
----------------------------------------------------------------
Pau Gasol       2347   3090   .760   2094   2790   .751    .009
LeBron James    3087   4095   .754   3042   4146   .734    .020
Kevin Durant    2261   2565   .881   2354   2664   .884   -.003
Kobe Bryant     4244   5053   .840   4134   4958   .834    .006
Dwight Howard   2235   3971   .563   2213   3864   .573   -.010
Shaq O'Neal     3027   5718   .529   2908   5534   .525    .004

Looking at these statistics, there doesn't seem to be much variance, no matter the FT% (albeit this is a small sample size). The biggest difference in these examples is from LeBron James at .02 in favor of home, but the rest are .01 difference or less either way.

I thought Dwight Howard and Shaq would have a greater difference due to their well-documented ineffectiveness from the free throw line, but that didn't prove to be the case.

Summary:

  • If you're great from the free throw line, you'll be great home or away.
  • If you're good from the free throw line, you'll be good home or away.
  • If you're not so good from the free throw line, you'll be not so good home or away.

Note: This answer considers NBA statistics only. I think collegiate statistics may vary more, but I'm not sure if it would be enough to provide a clear answer to this question.

  • Let's be clear, most players will tell you that when playing at home they feel the most pressure so looking at home/away stats is not about pressure but about the difference in pressure or even venue. To look at how pressure effects a player a good case study would be Shaq who was said to hit over 70% at practice vs... well you know in games. – Coach-D Nov 7 '16 at 16:32

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