A Basketball Hoop That Never Lets You Brick

With none of the major leagues in any team sport currently meeting, sports fans have a huge void that has to be filled with something. For [Shane Wighton], the machine shop is the place to go when sports let you down, and the result is this basketball backboard that lets you sink every shot every time.

When we first saw this, we thought for sure it would be some overly complicated motorized affair that would move the hoop to catch the basketball, sort of like the dart-catching dartboard we featured some time ago. And while that would be awesome and somebody should totally build that so we can write it up, [Shane]’s hoop dream is a lot simpler mechanically, even if the math needed to determine the proper shape for the backboard was complex. He wrote software to simulate throws from hundreds of positions to determine the shape for the board, which ends up looking like a shallow elliptic paraboloid. The software created a mesh that was translated into CNC tool paths in Fusion 360, and the backboard was carved from blocks of softwood.

The first tests were disappointing; instead of landing every shot, the board seemed to be actively denying them. [Shane] had to puzzle over that for a while before realizing that he didn’t account for the radius of the ball, which means the centroid never actually contacts the backboard. Rather than recalculate and create a new backboard, he just shifted the hoop out from the backboard by a ball radius. With that expedient in place, the setup performed exactly as calculated.

[Shane] may have taken the long road to hoops glory, but we appreciate the effort and the math lesson. And the fact that this ends up being the same shape as some antennas is a plus.

25 thoughts on “A Basketball Hoop That Never Lets You Brick

  1. So it’s a parabolic reflector (satellite dish) for basketballs, neat! Also if he had left the basket where it was when he first built it, so the ball would never go in the basket, he would clean up at a carnival!

  2. Erm, of course it doesn’t always go in. Sure, maybe if you throw a free-throw, but not if you throw from, oh, I don’t know, any angle other than straight on.

    Maybe he mentions that in the video, I’m not sitting through 20-odd minutes about a curved bit of material. Maybe it should track you, then the title might be more accurate.

    1. The simulation runs for different throwing positions. He does mention that within the first six minutes of the video and again about eleven minutes in. The rest is construction and results. So no, you need not sit through twenty minutes “about a curved bit of material”.

      1. Youtube is a mixed blessing, we now can see things we had no access to before (e.g. How to replace the timing belt on a 2009 Honda Civic with common tools), but some videos are far longer than necessary in order to have commercials crammed in them, as well as the “Don’t forget to click on the (whatever) to Subscribe” mentioned several times with each video. It can be the video equivalent of clickbait websites (Forty webpages to click through to see the Top 15 Sports Cars).
        So, when I click on a Youtube link, it is sort of like playing Russian Roulette, will I get the information I’m looking for in a concise format? Or will it be buried in a bunch of blather?

        So, yeah, I’m cool with [sam]’s comment.

  3. “realizing that he didn’t account for the radius of the ball”
    😭 so sad! So frustrating when you find a simple mistake in something, especially so close to completion!
    Well done on finding a simple solution though, and very cool project.

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