Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Shot That Is Free By Jasen Sousa for Premier Hoops

The Shot That Is Free

The free throw line stands 15 feet from the basket.  It's a psychological shot that has perplexed some of the best players in the game of basketball.  How can someone hit a shot while they are contorting their body with a hand in their face, and then struggle with a shot that is not defended?  When you go to the free throw line, the game stops, your heart stops.  Players come to a stand-still after running at full speed.  The eyes of every single fan in the gym are focused on you.  They expect you to make them. 

Becoming a great free throw shooter starts with repetition.  No basketball player's free throw shot is exactly the same, and we all have own little nuances.   The most important thing to remember is to do the same routine every time you step to the line.  Creating your own routine that works for you usually comes from time spent alone practicing at the park or in the gym.  There are some NBA players over the years who have had some of the most unique routines in recent history. 

Jason Kidd would blow a kiss to his child when he went to the line.  Karl Malone would murmur a phrase as he entered into his rhythm.  Richard Hamilton would bounce the ball in front of him and then take one bounce off to the side.  Jerry Stackhouse would almost sit on the ground before he took his shot!  Jeff Hornacek would touch his face to let his kids at home know he was thinking of them.  Steve Smith would tap a tattoo of his deceased mother on his arm.   Alonzo Mourning would rub his face with his sweatband in the same motion.   The charismatic Gilbert Arenas would loop the ball around his back multiple times.  In the old days, Rick Barry would even shoot underhand!

Check out this video below of some unique routines:



Below is a list of the top 20 statistical free throw % shooters in the history of the NBA.  Google some of their releases and routines and try to notice some of the same principles they all follow:

Members of the Hall of Fame are marked with an asterisk (*)




One thing to keep in mind, is that when you go the free throw line, relax!  Take a deep breath, or two, or three.  Try and blackout trash taking fans, opposing players, and coaches along with the pressure.  Imagine yourself back on the line alone in the park.  Relax.  Conduct your routine.  Bend your knees.  Stay aligned with the hoop.  Release.  Free throws are an often neglected part of basketball, but you never know when you will get fouled in the late stages of a game, and when you will calmly need to go the line and sink the shots which could help your team be victorious.    

 Contributing writer Jasen Sousa for Premier Hoops is the author of a number of poetry and fiction books for young people.  Jasen has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and is a life-long participant and fan of the game of basketball.  

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