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Old 11-24-2019, 10:19 PM
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Why is the NBA home advantage so large?


A lot of the top-tier teams in the NBA are undefeated at home and fifty-fifty on the road. A quick Google shows teams win 61% at home, make more fast breaks and shots, and commit fewer fouls.

This well-known phenomenon is attributed to referee bias and the psychological impact of a supportive crowd.

But I donít know. Having the crowd can be a big boost. Basketball can be a game of momentum.

1. Are there other sports where home advantage is bigger? Seems very large.

2. I refereed soccer at the provincial level for years. Although a poor comparison, I find it very difficult to believe professional referees are significantly biased. I canít see that making too much difference. Any stats or proof?

3. Travelling would seem to be very tiring, and a lot of travel is coast to coast with little time between games. Is this a major factor? Whatís being left out?
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Old 11-24-2019, 10:34 PM
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I'd say that regular season NBA before Christmas is just about who wants to put in the effort. Home teams know where their paychecks are coming from.
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Old 11-24-2019, 10:50 PM
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Home advantage? Sleeping in your own bed when you're 6'8", being with your family, eating better, being more relaxed. Knowing you don't have to get on a plane at 2 a.m. and arrive at the next hotel at 5 a.m. is a big plus.
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Old 11-24-2019, 10:56 PM
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Surly it's not just the NBA. Don't all teams in EVERY league win more often at home? (Statistically?)
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Old 11-24-2019, 10:57 PM
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I donít disagree, but apart from the 6í8Ē part everything else applies to many sports.
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Old 11-24-2019, 11:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Leaffan View Post
Surly it's not just the NBA. Don't all teams in EVERY league win more often at home? (Statistically?)
MLB doesnít seem to have as much of a home field advantage.

Just look at the last World Series...
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Old 11-24-2019, 11:09 PM
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The home advantage in the NHL is reckoned to be 5%, about half that of the NBA. Football has a home team advantage of about 3 points a game.

And surely travel is easier now than in the past. And facilities are much better too.
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Old 11-24-2019, 11:12 PM
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Surly it's not just the NBA. Don't all teams in EVERY league win more often at home? (Statistically?)
Yes, but it's much higher in the NBA and NFL than in NHL and MLB. Soccer is extremely high too (probably higher than any of the others).

Cite with some (2-year-old) numbers here: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features...u-play-hockey/

My hypothesis is that it basically comes down to (a) how much the officials can influence the game and (b) how much of the game is effort-based.

NBA and NHL are effort-heavy games, which could build off the crowd and also be hurt by travel fatigue. MLB less so. NFL probably somewhere in the middle. NBA and NFL have by far the biggest reliance on officiating. NHL probably next with MLB at the bottom. And soccer is both highly effort-based and the officials have an enormous impact on the outcome.

ETA: I'd also not that some sports have inherent home-field advantages. Batting last in baseball and crowd noise impacting audibles, snap counts, etc in football.

Last edited by Jas09; 11-24-2019 at 11:13 PM.
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Old 11-24-2019, 11:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Dr_Paprika View Post
Whatís being left out?
Familiarity with the physical conditions of the home field.

But I feel this would be more of a factor in baseball and football. It should be pretty minimal with basketball, which is played indoors and where the courts are standardized.
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Old 11-25-2019, 03:08 AM
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I've been interested in this for a while. What's striking to me is that the other three sports (leaving soccer out) have real differences for the home and away teams:

MLB: Last licks, different sized outfields
NHL: Last substitution, playing surface variation
NFL: Crowd noise on crucial plays, playing surface variation, weather and sun effects

(They all have crowd noise, of course, but the way NFL plays go, the crowd can really get into it when the QB is trying to get the play started. The other sports don't really have that)

Ice and board reflections really vary from rink to rink. If you're in the NFL and used to playing in a dome, playing GB in the winter must be no fun. Similarly, a team that plays in a dome may invest more in a kicker, where the lack of weather can make the kicker much more effective.

And yet, the NBA has the largest home field advantage? Weird.
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Old 11-25-2019, 07:38 AM
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This article doesn't really draw any conclusions besides confirming "home-field-advantage" is statistically "real," but it's still interesting and good info: https://www.sbnation.com/2011/1/19/1...rts-stats-data
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Old 11-25-2019, 08:41 AM
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I agree though that with the NBA it’s probably the refs. They have much more leeway in their officiating than the other major leagues, more than even the NFL.
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Old 11-25-2019, 09:30 AM
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There is some leeway on when to call a foul in basketball, but also in hockey. Everything is on camera, subject to replay, commented on widely. To referee at the national level requires decades of experience, lots of exams and auditing, the league certainly reviewing mistakes. Mistakes made randomly should not benefit one team only. And coaches can ask for a live review. I thought most referees would do a great job, or not last long. Yet referee bias is listed as a major effect.

There are a surprising amount of studies of home team advantage on Google Scholar. One recent one concludes NBA referees are not a factor and there is no evidence of bias. They say the advantage is bigger based on the style of team play, especially home teams are more likely to sink three point shots. This makes sense if these differ from place to place, but you certainly practice these often at home.

This study felt the size of the crowd was not a factor. That reminded me of Gary Gulman’s amusing comedy routine on cheerleaders.
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Old 11-25-2019, 10:22 AM
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I’ve always said, somewhat jokingly, that the visiting team has their minds on getting out to the nightclubs and meeting women than actually playing while they’re on the road.
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Old 11-25-2019, 12:04 PM
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I think the referees are influenced by the crowd more in basketball than other sports. When the crowd reacts much louder to any possible foul against the visitor than to the home team, I think the refs are more likely to blow that whistle.
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Old 11-25-2019, 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by sitchensis View Post
I'd say that regular season NBA before Christmas is just about who wants to put in the effort. Home teams know where their paychecks are coming from.
You may have a big part of it here. Team fans are right there by the floor in basketball, they players recognize those fans and I think would respond better to the crowd than they would with the distance other sports require. In a show-off game like basketball that can help a lot.

I doubt the travel is much of a factor in the NBA, the schedule is not tight, teams rarely play 2 days in a row and have several long breaks through the season.

It's not the case anymore but back in the day the parquet floor at the Boston Garden was known for it's 'funny' spots, floor panels that were a little loose or soft, and the players were well aware of them and knew how to use them in some clever bounce passes.
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Old 11-25-2019, 01:36 PM
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Here's my un-cited, evidence-free theory about home-field advantage in the NBA. In a basketball game, no particular basket (before the final minute or so) really matters, so effort makes much more of a difference. A home team being cheered on will work a little harder for each field goal, whereas an away team may slack off from time to time, allowing those extra baskets in.

By the end, the away team may find they are too far behind -- one of my problems with basketball is that either the last few minutes don't matter because the teams are too far apart or the first 50-some minutes didn't matter. There's no particular time in the game that seems definitive until the end, if the game happens to be close. Since nothing particularly matters, the team that's trying a little harder to win throughout may end up more often on top.

None of that is true in the other sports -- in hockey, baseball, and football, each goal/run/point makes a big difference, so the players are more likely to work hard throughout.
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Old 11-25-2019, 04:02 PM
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Most pro athletes and referees have been playing in front of big crowds for years. They can and do tune them out. For what itís worth, the majority of athletes are workaholic introverts.

Again, one study found crowd size not a factor - I guess bigger crowds make more noise.

Whether itís easier to take 3 pointers from one place to another? Ask Steve Curry. I dunno.

Gary Gulman: (Football star being interviewed)
So there we were. Down 20 points. And the cheerleaders, God bless Ďem, started shouting D-E-F-E-N-C-E. And I thought, theyíre right. We need to start playing some defence. Turned the game around.
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Old 11-25-2019, 04:28 PM
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I think Nate Silver once had a piece where he found a correlation between travel distances and outcomes in NCAA tournaments. In that case, neither team is actually at home, but one team still has less travel time.
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Old 11-25-2019, 05:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
Familiarity with the physical conditions of the home field.

But I feel this would be more of a factor in baseball and football. It should be pretty minimal with basketball, which is played indoors and where the courts are standardized.
In a interview with a particular BB team they stated they know the wood that their court is made of, which planks give which bounce, in particular dead spots. This was at least a decade ago, perhaps 2 or 2+ and I have no idea of the team, but it could be a factor. Variability in wood and using that court over and over could give a not insignificant advantage.
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Old 11-25-2019, 06:06 PM
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My impression is that in the NBA, players are a lot closer to fans (wildly cheering or yelling nastily) than in MLB or the NFL.* In the NHL, fans are relatively close but sequestered behind a partially noise-reducing barrier.

So maybe (beyond noise alone) that has something to do with the NBA's home advantage.

Since shooting/scoring tends to be a streaky thing in professional basketball, possibly it's easier to get on a prolonged roll when you have the fans behind you.

*the NFL seems to have a monopoly on fans drowning out the visiting teams' signals.

Last edited by Jackmannii; 11-25-2019 at 06:07 PM.
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Old 11-25-2019, 06:45 PM
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I never believed that much in human psychology as an advantage per se, but I'm starting to come around. Tight games, particularly those between equally matched teams, may come down to fouls and foul shooting, which are possibly influenced by things like crowd noise.
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Old 11-25-2019, 11:48 PM
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Quantifying it is difficult, but soccer(football) is also a profoundly home ground advantaged sport
In recognition of this, in the major club competitions, the primary tie breaker is the away goals rule, i.e. one goal scored on the way leg of a tie counts for 2 scored at home
Also, though less empirically, there is the visiting team chant:
"We're leading away, we're leading away, how shit must you be, we're leading away”

AFL used to have but much has evaporated due to centralised venues for the Melbourne teams but the interstate clubs do have about 60% winning records vs travelling teams.
Travelling plus the home crowd effect are in play and additionally there is no standard dimensions for an AFL ground and the locals typically have an advantage in knowing how best to play their back yard.
The outlier is Geelong are based outside Melbourne, who have a 67% winning record in 679 games played since 1941 and 85% since 2005.

Rugby League and Rugby Union club games are played more on a home and away venue basis with NRL home teams winning around 60%.
The main Sydney daily paper runs a standard NRL tipping panel which at one stage was won by Peter Fitzsimmons for 5 years straight.
This really irked the League experts, past coaches and playing greats on the panel because Fitsimmons was a died-in-the-wool Union man who bucketed League in his columns on a very consistent basis.

When he retired from the panel Fitzsimmons revealed his "secret" method … when in doubt back the home team, and further that if a punter had only backed the home team they would have beaten his tally in all five of those years.
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Old 11-26-2019, 12:18 AM
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In a interview with a particular BB team they stated they know the wood that their court is made of, which planks give which bounce, in particular dead spots. This was at least a decade ago, perhaps 2 or 2+ and I have no idea of the team, but it could be a factor. Variability in wood and using that court over and over could give a not insignificant advantage.
Most likely the Boston Celtics. The parquet floor of the Boston Garden was famously unique.
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Old 11-26-2019, 05:05 PM
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You'd expect soccer and baseball to have larger home field advantages, because even the dimensions of the fields can vary, and a team is more used to its home field (in fact, some baseball teams have even adjusted the outfield walls based on their strengths).

With basketball, though, while there may be some subtle quirks to a particular court, they're much more standardized.
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Old 11-27-2019, 09:28 AM
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Surly it's not just the NBA. Don't all teams in EVERY league win more often at home? (Statistically?)
Yes, but more so in the NBA. in the NBA the home team wins 60 percent of the time, more than the other major leagues in North America. It's 55-57 percent in the NFL, 54-55 in the NHL, and I believe about 54 in baseball.

I am sure the fact baseball has a lower advantage will come as a surprise to many, since there is a clear strategic advantage in batting last and home ballparks can differ in fence dimensions. That said, however, those things don't usually decide ballgames.

As to why it's higher in basketball, it's very hard to ignore the point about crowds. I've been to pro games in these sports and the presence of the crowd in an NBA game is incredible. I have seen some fanatic crowds in other sports but it isn't at all comparable; a Raptors game near the court is like nothing you see in hockey or baseball or football. The crowd is right on top of the players and the refs and they get insane.
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Old 11-27-2019, 10:18 AM
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I am sure the fact baseball has a lower advantage will come as a surprise to many, since there is a clear strategic advantage in batting last and home ballparks can differ in fence dimensions.
Being familiar with say, the Green Monster, could help the home team a bit. But (as I think we've discussed) it's not at all clear to me that batting last is that much of an advantage: the defense has a lot more options than the offense and therefore should benefit more from knowing how many runs are important.

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Yes, but more so in the NBA. in the NBA the home team wins 60 percent of the time, more than the other major leagues in North America. It's 55-57 percent in the NFL, 54-55 in the NHL, and I believe about 54 in baseball.
One important point is that in the NBA favorites win much more often, too. This makes sense considering an NBA team has about 100 possessions per game to equalize out a bad bounce or two, while an NFL team has maybe 10 possessions at most -- so NFL games are far more influenced by luck. So first thing to do is figure out whether the bigger home advantage in basketball is real or just more visible because there's less noise in the results.
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Old 11-28-2019, 10:35 AM
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Being familiar with say, the Green Monster, could help the home team a bit. But (as I think we've discussed) it's not at all clear to me that batting last is that much of an advantage: the defense has a lot more options than the offense and therefore should benefit more from knowing how many runs are important.

One important point is that in the NBA favorites win much more often, too. This makes sense considering an NBA team has about 100 possessions per game to equalize out a bad bounce or two, while an NFL team has maybe 10 possessions at most -- so NFL games are far more influenced by luck. So first thing to do is figure out whether the bigger home advantage in basketball is real or just more visible because there's less noise in the results.
Home advantage and competitive balance cancel out, though. Bad teams and good teams play the same number of games home and away; the effects of home court advantage and competitive imbalance shouldn't conflate in the regular season. They will conflate a little in the postseason, because the superior team usually gets an extra home game in each series. I was only quoting regular season figures.

Coincidentally I read a part of "Freakonomics" (or some book by those dudes, it might have been another one) about this very phenomenon, and they cited a study into this issue that concluded it almost certainly was the home crowd and the effect it had on officials.
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Old 12-05-2019, 01:00 PM
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MLB doesnít seem to have as much of a home field advantage.

Just look at the last World Series...
I knew someone would mention that. And the home team in baseball has some actual advantage. Batting second is at least a psychological advantage, but in ties knowing whether you need only one run or you need more can change your strategy. Also, the defense knows all the quirks of the home field.

In hockey the home team gets to make the last line change. That must be worth something. AFAIK, there is no objective home team advantage in basketball or football.
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Old 12-05-2019, 03:12 PM
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You may have a big part of it here. Team fans are right there by the floor in basketball, they players recognize those fans and I think would respond better to the crowd than they would with the distance other sports require. In a show-off game like basketball that can help a lot.

I doubt the travel is much of a factor in the NBA, the schedule is not tight, teams rarely play 2 days in a row and have several long breaks through the season.

It's not the case anymore but back in the day the parquet floor at the Boston Garden was known for it's 'funny' spots, floor panels that were a little loose or soft, and the players were well aware of them and knew how to use them in some clever bounce passes.
About travel, here is a sample of the Washington Wizards schedule:

1/20 - at home
1/22 - at Miami
1/23 - at Cleveland
1/26 - at Atlanta
1/28 - at Milwaukee

That's a demanding travel schedule, to me, at least.
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