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The National Basketball Association

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Underhanded Free-Throws: Time For a Comeback?

  • Sep 16, 2010

So I started reading Terry Pluto's 1995 NBA book titled Falling From Grace, and there's a chapter called, "Why Johnny Can't Shoot" which talks about why NBA players in the mid-90's sucked at shooting. In the previous chapters, he talked about players making millions of dollars from contracts and endorsements and not spending enough time honing their skills and working on fundamentals. He even throws in a quote from Isiah Thomas, "Kids today are more concerned with learning how to dunk than learning how to play".

The majority of the chapter focuses on free throw shooting and looks into why a guy like Chris Dudley, a career 46% free throw shooter, couldn't consistently make free throws and and why Shaq could go 0-8 from the line during a stretch against the Pacers in the playoffs. Of course he mentions the mental aspect of the free throw but also talks about free throw form and how some of the shooting techniques of some of these players are so bad that it would be worth trying something else.

Sebastian Pruiti of NBAPlaybook.com recently took a look at some of the free throw shooting forms of a few of the notoriously bad free throw shooters in the league. Bad techniques and habits still exist and perhaps have gotten worse in some cases... and then there's Chuck Hayes:

So is it time to try something else? Pluto suggests the Rick Barry underhand method. Barry tells a story about showing Chris Dudley his free throw shooting method before a game once:

I talked to him, showed him some of the basic principles of the underhanded free throw. He threw a few up there, and they bounced around and went in. He wasn't even shooting it right, but it was still soft enough to fall into the basket. Now here was a guy who couldn't even hit the rim sometimes, and I showed him a shot that at least gave him a chance. You'd think he'd follow up on it, right? He never even bothered to ask me or anyone else about shooting underhanded. He just kept embarrassing himself the old way. You have to be a moron to be that stubborn.

Ouch. That's pretty harsh Rick. Looks like Bill Simmons is right.

But anyway, Barry's got the 3rd highest free throw shooting percentage in NBA history, and he makes the underhanded free throw look so easy:

It's been a long time since anyone in the NBA has shot it underhanded but maybe it's time it makes a comeback. There are excuses why players wouldn't want to try it: "It doesn't feel comfortable", "It looks stupid", and "No one else does it", but there really are no good excuses on why not to try it. Even physics proves that everyone should shoot underhand. (Psst! Did you hear that, Andris Biedrins?)

Rick Barry even made a proposal:

Let me work with Shaq and pay me so much for each percentage point that he improves from the line from the previous season. Shaq would get better, his team would win more games, and I'd make a lot of money. He can make 70 percent underhanded if I worked with him and he stayed with the shot.

Sounds like a good deal. It would be amusing to see him attempt a single underhanded free throw, let alone see him shoot it underhanded during games for the rest of his career. But hey, it could happen, right? He's on the squad where anything's possible.

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September 17, 2010
I'm not a big sports fan but, I know a thoroughly entertaining, lucid review when I read one. And I just read one ... swish, no net at all! Good job!
September 17, 2010
Thanks for reading! Glad you enjoyed it!
About the reviewer
Peter Kim ()
Ranked #2
I love basketball, exercise, reading, business, movies and occasionally some brainless reality TV shows =P I am more than happy to help anyone out with anything here on Lunch and definitely looking forward … more
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About this sports league


The National Basketball Association (NBA) is the pre-eminent men's professional basketball league in North America which consists of thirty franchised member clubs, of which twenty-nine are located in the United States and one in Canada. It is an active member of USA Basketball (USAB), which is recognized by the International Basketball Federation as the National Governing Body (NGB) for basketball in the United States. The NBA is one of the four major North American professional sports leagues, which include Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Football League (NFL), and the National Hockey League (NHL).

The league was founded in New York City on June 6, 1946 as the Basketball Association of America (BAA).[2] The league adopted the name National Basketball Association in 1949 after merging with the rival National Basketball League (NBL). The league's several international as well as individual team offices are directed out of its head offices located in the Olympic Tower at 645 Fifth Avenue in New York City. NBA Entertainment and NBA TV studios are directed out of offices located in Secaucus, New Jersey.

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