The basketball shootout: strategy and winning probabilities

Yigal Gerchak*, Mordechai Henig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Continental Basketball Association staged a shootout in which each contestant attempted one shot from a distance of his/her choice. The player scoring from the greatest distance won a large prize. The order of shooters was determined by a lottery and each player knew for where previous contestants had shot and whether they were successful. We drive a simple formula for the optimal strategy assuming equal abilities. The shooting order is shown to have a large influence on the winning probability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-244
Number of pages4
JournalOperations Research Letters
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1986


  • dynamic programming
  • sports strategies


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