Wilt Chamberlain, the most unstoppable player in the history of the game, couldn’t make free throws. His coach once said if he could make free throws (FT), their team wouldn’t lose another game. In fact, his iconic 100 point-game was only made possible because he went 28-32 from the free-throw line. An anomaly!
Good players take a lot of foul shots. Great players actually make them.
Shaquille O’Neal (Shaq) was another dominant player who took a lot of FT, but made few. Statistically, he’s the third-worst free-throw shooter in NBA history behind Wilt Chamberlain and Ben Wallace. Shaq was a career 52.7% from the line having missed 5,317 free throws. Woah! That’s a lot of points left on the table. The difference between Shaq averaging 23.7 ppg over his HOF career and a player like James Harden averaging 38.9 ppg this season is their ability to make FTs.
If Shaq implemented the following secrets, he would have been an even more dominant force than he already was. Be sure to implement these five FT tips so that you don’t leave points on the table.
Have a consistent routine
One that is the same in practice and games. We all know the player who does the behind the back, spin the ball, blow a kiss to the rim routine before taking the shot. If that’s you, stop! It takes too long. If you only get one free throw every 6-8 seconds in practice, it will take excessively long to improve. The longer your routine is in games, the more quickly you will get out of rhythm, allow negative thoughts to creep in, and doubt to emerge. When designing your free throw routine, remember these three words, keep it short. This will allow you to get twice as many free throws off in practice, which leads to twice as many quality reps throughout a season, resulting in two times the speed of improvement.
Step off the line in between shots.
A free throw line is a place of pressure, overthinking, and being in the spotlight. By stepping off the line after each shot, you allow yourself to reset, relax, and flush any negative thoughts. Then, when you step back up, it’s a brand new shot, rhythm, and process, giving you the best opportunity for success.
Only count swishes in practice.
For the rest of your career, when practicing, don’t count it if it hits the rim. One of the hardest things to duplicate in games is the feeling of pressure, so you must find a way to simulate pressure before being in the big moment. How do you do it? Raise the expectation for yourself in practice. The higher the degree of pressure you apply to yourself in practice by only accepting swishes, the more prepared you are for games. Besides, most players miss free throws short and flat. Forcing yourself to swish the shot creates more arc on the release, resulting in a higher percentage of makes.
Make every free throw twice.
Before taking your shot, visualize the ball going through the rim in your mind. The goal is to duplicate a positive image and feeling as opposed to thinking about the last shot you missed or the mistake you made. Visualize first, and you will make each free-throw twice.
Focus on the feeling.
Players miss free throws because they aim the ball and attempt to force it in. We all know the feeling of our authentic shot when it’s smooth, easy, and in rhythm. Think back to a moment when you were on the free-throw line and your shot just felt right. You knew it was in the moment it left your hand. Cement that memory and feeling in your mind and seek to duplicate it every time you shoot your free throws.
If you practice these five things, I guarantee you will make more free throws, increase your confidence, and become that clutch player your coach trusts with the ball at the end of games.
Oh, and if you ever run into Shaq, make sure to send him a link to this article. 😉
Want to learn more concepts like these? Join us at one of our PGC camps this summer.
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