Why Aren’t Free Throws a No-Brainer?

A few weeks ago, my 12-year-old played one of his better games with his sixth-grade travel basketball team. He drove the lane, drew some fouls, and best of all, shot 4 for 4 at the line. He was “beasting,” as he likes to say. That was a particularly banner game but in general he’s a good free throw shooter for his age. If I had to guess, I’d say he shoots at least 50% at the line. That same week, I watched Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo miss two clutch free throws in a row. Which got me scratching my head: How is it that Rondo, a premier All-Star player who gets paid $10 million a year can have a FT percentage that’s just 10% higher than my 12-year-old’s?

Think about it. Here’s all he has to do: Stand at a line which is always 15 feet from the basket, always 10 feet in height and throw the exact same brand/model/size ball in the hoop without anyone’s hand in his face. And yet 4 times out 10 he misses! OK, so Rondo’s one of the worst point guards in the league for FT’s but the NBA average is still a shabby 75% (in college ball it’s just 69%). It’s not like free throws don’t matter. I read in a 1995 study that in games decided by 9 or fewer points, free throws accounted for nearly 70% of the winning team’s points in the last minute. Just yesterday, Kentucky proved the case decisively by downing Indiana in a game where they shot 35 for 37 from the line.

So what’s the problem? Lack of discipline? Faulty technique? Lack of mental focus under pressure? I don’t know the answer, but last week I read about the guy who probably knows the answer better than anyone. Bob Fisher is the best free throw shooter on the planet. And he’s – you guessed it – a full-time soil conservation technician from Kansas. Fisher has sunk 2,371 free throws in an hour — nearly 40 a minute!! Think I’ll reach out to him to hear what his magic is…

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