Olympic swimming great Michael Phelps indeed took part in Arizona State’s “Curtain of Distraction” on Thursday night against Oregon State, and it was pretty, pretty good.

And it worked! Oregon State’s Stephen Thompson Jr. missed both free throws, and the Sun Devils eventually scored an 86-68 win to snap a three-game skid.

“That’s the first time that I’ve seen the Curtain of Distraction this year,” Arizona State Coach Bobby Hurley said, via ArizonaSports.com. “I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see that.

“The cool part of it is how much fun he had doing it. It looked like he enjoyed it and our crowd fed off it, which was nice.”


One of college basketball’s greatest, strangest traditions takes place at Arizona State. To distract opposing free throw shooters, the school’s undergraduate fans — called the 942 Crew, after the 942 seats in the student section at Wells Fargo Arena — set up a curtain behind the basket that reveals something odd. A fat Elvis impersonator. Twerking farm animals.

Behold, the Curtain of Distraction:

On Thursday night against Oregon State, the Curtain of Distraction is going to have some major star power.

Phelps is training for this year’s Rio Olympics with Coach Bob Bowman at Arizona State and has been to a few Sun Devils basketball games in the past. Arizona State could use the help, too:

But does the Curtain of Distraction actually work? According to a New York Times story from last year, it does:

It appears to give Arizona State an additional one- to two-point advantage per home game, beyond the normal homecourt advantage. The Curtain may even have played the pivotal role in the Sun Devils’ recent upset of their state rivals, the Arizona Wildcats.
The easiest way to see the effect is to compare visitors’ free-throw shooting percentage before and after the Curtain’s 2013 introduction. In each of the three seasons from 2010-11 to 2012-13, visitors missed 28 to 32 percent of their free throws. Last season, the Curtain’s first, the rate at which visitors missed free throws rose sharply, to 40 percent.
In the first 14 home games of this season — when the Curtain and its surprises have continued to appear — visitors have missed 36 percent of all free throws. If you didn’t know better, you might suspect that the size of the hoop had gotten smaller.

Still, the Curtain of Distraction has nothing on the Red Regiment at Sheridan High in Ohio. Now this is a distraction.