The way this ball travels is downright bizarre, but there’s a good reason for it.
If you’re going to stand atop a skyscraper on a windy day to sink a shot from 583 feet up, you better get very familiar with the Magnus effect. It’s a safe bet that, judging from the outcome, Harlem Globetrotter Buckets Blakes was a fast study on the scientific phenomenon.
In orthodox observance of World Trick Shot Day (a holiday that the Globetrotters actually created), Blake stood atop the Tower of the Americas in San Antonio on a cloudy, windy day and set out to achieve history. If he has a fear of heights, hopefully the safety harness he wore while shooting put him at ease.
Here’s the video, posted by the Globetrotters:
We went 583 feet up at the Tower of the Americas for #WorldTrickShotDay... BUCKETS! https://t.co/4UcMFu7OwM— Harlem Globetrotters (@Harlem Globetrotters) 1481041947.0
He didn’t call “bank” on the shot, but we’ll let it slide because, well, he was an eighth of a mile above the basket when he shot the ball.
You might notice the ball takes a very bizarre path to the basket, seemingly fall straight down, then flying toward the hoop in almost perpendicular fashion. That’s not an optical illusion or camera trick. That’s the Magnus effect, which causes a spinning object to slightly (then extremely) pull away from its initial course. Backspin makes the ball kick WAY out (away from the person tossing).
Here it is on display in a trick shot that previously set the record from atop a dam 415-feet high:
When you start dealing with distances this extreme, physics has an exponentially more profound effect.
We might not get to see all the failed attempts it took for the Globetrotter to knock down his shot, but he made it, and we accidentally learned some physics. Good job all around.
Here’s more on the Magnus effect for you curious minds out there: