Why do fans cheer? Because not everybody is Larry Bird. Let me explain.

One night in 1989, Bird and the Boston Celtics were playing the Los Angeles Clippers at the perpetually outdated L.A. Sports Arena. The San Diego Chicken – presumably hired because anything was better than watching the Clippers back then – went to great lengths to mess with Bird’s mojo.

At one point, Bird was fouled and stepped to the line for two free throws. The aforementioned Chicken countered by unfurling posters of swimsuit models under the basket. Bird, a cocksure, otherworldly shooter, laughed…and then hit both free throws.

You couldn’t get to Larry Bird. He’s one of the most accurate free throw shooters in NBA history. But not everybody is Larry Bird. Most basketball players are human.


Fans cheer for a lot of reasons, but paramount among them is the belief that doing so can have an impact on the game. Because a game can come down to one nervous, rushed or distracted free throw that dances perilously on the rim. For the most part, we know this instinctually. It’s just understood that a raucous home crowd benefits the host team.

“I think it has some type of effect,” says VCU senior Rob Brandenberg. “I’m not going to say it’s 100 percent guaranteed, but I do think after a while, especially if a fan can get to you…it depends on the player, really.”

Can we actually quantify the value of a home court advantage, outside of the obvious categories of wins and losses? I suppose we can try.