Everyone knows that basketball is an extremely fast-paced game where agility, speed and explosive movement are essential. While this is all very much true, there’s another part of basketball that is just as important and requires little movement—so little that you don’t even have to move your feet. No, it’s not when you fill up your water bottle during a timeout; it’s far more significant than that. Free throws!
A lot of games can be determined by how well a team can sink their free throws. Free throws can sometimes seem daunting given everyone on the court, and in the stands, is staring at you—you might as well be performing under a spotlight. However, if you practice shooting free throws all the time, you are guaranteed to get into a rhythm and hopefully score no matter the circumstances.
Free throws rely heavily on muscle memory. If you merely shoot 10 free throws every other day, your body won’t learn a proper, or successful, shooting routine. Rather, if you allot 15-20 minutes every day to standing on the free throw line and finding the technique that fits you best, you will see marked improvements in your shooting game.
Like other basketball skills, free throws can become unique to you. There’s typically a general blueprint of what a “successful” shot looks like; though the beauty of a free throw lies in the fact that it’s an uncontested shot that lets you do you, in whichever way works best! For instance, NBA Hall of Famer, Rick Barry, has one of the best free throw averages of all time (he still currently sits in 3rd place). Barry famously sported a 90% shooting average, and how exactly did he accomplish this you might be wondering? Shooting underhanded, of course. Yes, the infamous “granny-style” shot. Sure, it might seem somewhat unorthodox, but hey, it worked! Really, really well, I might add.
Barry has been interviewed multiple times about his distinctive technique and he always replies with the same thing: free throws are about repetition and following a routine. This isn’t a secret tactic only used by NBA All-Stars, anyone can develop a routine; it just takes practice. This mentality isn’t solely applicable to shooting free throws either–Barry’s advice rings true for any and all skills. If you want to be able to dribble with your non-dominant hand, pass the ball around your back when you’re up against a defender or master a fade-away shot, practice the move constantly and develop your perfect routine. Repetition is key to improving your game. Find a technique that suits you best and achieves the highest results and then practice it over and over and over and, well, you get it. So practice your shot as often as you can and soon you can turn a nerve-wracking moment into just another free throw.