On March 11th, 2020, the National Basketball Association (NBA) paused its season after ~ 64 games due to the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, only to resume ~ 5 months later with the top 22 teams isolated together (known as the “bubble”) in Orlando, Florida to play eight games each as an end to the regular season. This restart, with no new travel by teams, provided a natural experiment whereby the impact of travel and home-court advantage could be systematically examined. We show here that in the pre-COVID-19 regular season, traveling across time zones reduces winning percentage, team shooting accuracy, and turnover percentage, whereas traveling in general reduces offensive rebounding and increases the number of points the opposing (home) team scores. Moreover, we demonstrate that competition in a scenario where no teams travel (restart bubble) reduces the typical effects of travel and home-court advantage on winning percentage, shooting accuracy, and rebounding. Thus, home-court advantage in professional basketball appears to be linked with the away team’s impaired shooting accuracy (i.e., movement precision) and rebounding, which may be separately influenced by either circadian disruption or the general effect of travel, as these differences manifest differently when teams travel within or across multiple time zones.
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