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Uncovering the Sixers’ hidden headband energy

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Everyone loves how the Sixers look in headbands, but research shows they also affect on-court performance.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

On November 30, 2019, a legend was born. The Sixers blew out the Wizards by 25 points, and they did it with Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons sporting matching white headbands. Soon enough, the Headband Brothers had started a betting club with very strict rules.

The admission process was even tougher.

As the season went on, more and more Sixers started wearing headbands (we have no word on whose headbanding was club-sanctioned). We also saw a diversification of headband type, spanning three colors and two styles. Here is table of how often each headband-donning Sixer wore each type of headband since the inception of the club on November 30.

Tobias Harris is the most frequent headbander, which should come as a shock to no one considering he wears one every game. But Jimmy Butler had the most variation in headbands; he’s the only Sixer to wear all five of the headbands at least once. One potential style, the red Hachimaki-inspired headband, is yet to be worn by any Sixer.

We all love how the headbands look, but no one has ever investigated how they affect play on the court. That is, until now.

I went back and watched all 59 Sixers games since the start of the Headband Brothers club (no, I don’t think it was a waste of time). Here is a look at their record in those games, broken down by color of headband worn.

  • White: 15-8 (.652)
  • Blue: 11-6 (.647)
  • Red: 3-2 (.600)
  • None: 7-7 (.500)

The evidence is very clear: the Sixers win more games when at least one player on the team is wearing a headband.

We also find that headbands have a positive impact on the team’s shooting. Here are some graphs put together by my colleague, Andrew Patton.

As you can see, the Sixers shoot worse from the field without headbands. Their best field goal percentage comes specifically when wearing red headbands. With the reds on, the Sixers are literally shooting unprecedented percentages on corner 3s.

This next chart from Andrew shows whether the Sixers shoot better with traditional (red) or Hachimaki (blue) style headbands from each part of the floor.

When we combine this chart with the first, one thing becomes very obvious: Ben Simmons needs to be the first Sixer to wear the red Hachimaki headband so he can stand in the right corner and finally make his first career 3-pointer.

While there are clear advantages to wearing the headbands, there are also some understandable drawbacks. According to this final chart from Andrew, wearing a headband actually slows players down.

Sixers players are at their fastest when they play without a headband. The traditional headbands don’t have too much of a negative effect on speed, but we really start to see an impact with the Hachimaki headbands. Players are significantly slower when rocking this style, presumably due to the extra fabric.

So there you have it. The headbands result in more wins, better shooting, and decreased speed. These are things the Sixers can keep in mind when game-planning in the playoffs. Want to get good looks from the corner? Wear the reds. Want to play through Joel Embiid at the foul line? Wear the Hachimaki style. Have a speedy defensive assignment? Go the no headband route.

I know what you’re thinking. Aren’t these just weird coincidences based on small samples? Aren’t there a million alternative explanations? This couldn’t possibly be causal, right?

Wrong.

The headbands are magic.