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Underhand Free Throws: The Surprising Key to NBA Success

The Benefits of Underhand Free Throws

Are you a basketball enthusiast or a player looking to improve your free throw percentage? Then you might want to revisit the underhand free throw technique.

This shooting style is not new as it has been around for decades, but it’s not commonly used for certain reasons. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of underhand free throws, the factors affecting players’ adoption of the technique, and examples of successful NBA players who have used the underhand free throw to their advantage.

Example of Successful NBA Players

Rick Barry and Wilt Chamberlain are two NBA legends who have utilized the underhand free throw technique to their advantage. In his 14 seasons as a professional player, Rick Barry averaged 30 points per game with a 90% free throw percentage.

His statistics were impressive, and he was considered a prolific scorer because of his reliable performance on the foul line. On the other hand, Wilt Chamberlain, who is known for his incredible scoring skills, also adopted the underhand free throw technique late in his career.

In his final season, he improved his free throw percentage from 51% to 61% using this method.

Factors Affecting Players Adoption of Underhand Technique

Despite the benefits of the underhand free throw technique, players are often hesitant to adopt it. Factors such as ego, perception, and poor free throw percentage often get in the way.

Most players perceive underhand free throws as an “uncool” way of shooting, making them less likely to consider using it. In addition, players often have reservations about off-court ridicule if they use this technique during games.

Poor free throw percentage can be another factor affecting players’ adoption of underhand free throws. Many players equate free throws to an expression of their basketball skills.

Hence, adopting a technique viewed as unconventional and “uncool” may be viewed as a blow to their self-esteem, which can impact their confidence during games. Rick Barry’s Underhanded Free Throw

Rick Barry is one of the most successful NBA players who adopted the underhand free throw technique.

However, his move to underhand free throws was heavily influenced by his father, former player Bruce Barry, who was also a successful underhand free throw shooter. Despite his father’s success, Rick Barry was initially skeptical about using the technique.

But he decided to give it a try and saw the benefits it offered quickly, which helped him improve his skills. He was not impervious to doubts, but his confidence in his father’s decision helped him stick to the process and succeed eventually.

Barry’s adoption of the technique also stemmed from the fact that he was focused on results rather than external perception or what constituted “cool.” His commitment to using underhand free throws led to considerable success and respect from his colleagues.


The underhand free throw technique is not a new concept but is rarely used, largely due to perception and ego. However, players who adopt this technique stand to benefit from its effectiveness on the foul line.

Rick Barry and Wilt Chamberlain are great examples of players who have found success using underhand free throws in the NBA. There is no shame in adopting a technique that gives results rather than sticking to conventional practices.

It’s up to each player to evaluate their game and make conscious decisions to improve their skills.

Refusal to Adopt Underhanded Free Throws

Many NBA players remain resistant to adopting the underhand free throw technique despite its proven effectiveness. While some of these players are held back by poor perception, others struggle to overcome physical limitations such as hands too big for comfortable implementation of the technique.

In this section, we will explore some of the reasons why NBA players reject underhand free throws and how physical limitations may be a contributing factor.

Struggles of NBA Centers with Bigger Hands

One of the biggest hurdles to adopting underhand free throws is the physical limitations that derive from being an NBA center with large hands. Centers, who typically have larger hands than other players on the court, can find it difficult to grip and release the ball in a comfortable and successful manner that exemplifies the underhand free throw method.

A prime example of this is Shaquille O’Neal, one of the greatest centers of all time, who has long struggled with poor free throw shooting. O’Neal’s hands are so large that they make the ball look small, which often causes him to grip the ball too tightly, leading to wild misses or airballs on the free throw line.

NBA Players Rejection of Underhand Technique

Despite the efforts of proponents of the underhand free throw technique, many NBA players continue to reject it. One of the reasons for this refusal is the perception that underhand shooting is boring, silly, and a less cool way to shoot free throws.

Players fear ridicule from their peers and fans if they adopt the underhand method, which can significantly impact their confidence during crucial moments in a game. Additionally, many players are cautious about straying from the traditional overhand free throw technique that has been engrained and promoted in basketball culture for decades.

The underhand free throw technique may seem simple, but it’s a highly effective shooting style that takes a considerable amount of skill and practice to perfect. Many NBA players are unwilling to put in the time, effort, and practice required to be successful with the underhand method.

They may instead continue to rely on overhand shots even when faced with the reality of a consistently poor free throw percentage. In contrast, some NBA players have experimented with underhand free throws and have successfully improved their free throw shooting.

However, their efforts remain overshadowed by the continued stigma surrounding underhand free throws in the league.


Underhand free throws are an effective method for improving free throw shooting, yet many NBA players remain resistant to adopting this technique due to physical limitations such as hand size or perceptual issues such as boredom and silliness. While some players still struggle to overcome these challenges, those who have successfully adopted the underhand technique have seen remarkable improvements and have earned respect from their peers.

The underhand free throw may not be as cool or traditional as the overhand method, but players who are serious about improving their basketball skills should be open to using all the tools at their disposal. In conclusion, the underhand free throw technique is an effective way to improve free throw shooting, but it remains underutilized in the NBA due to perceptual issues, and in some cases, physical limitations.

Players who adopt the underhand method can improve their shooting consistency and ultimately help their team’s chances of winning. While adopting the technique requires time and practice, it can lead to significant improvements in free throw percentage and overall success on the court.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Is the underhand free throw uncool? A: While some perceive it this way, players who adopt the underhand method understand that effective shooting is more important than perception.

Q: Can players with bigger hands utilize the underhand technique? A: Individuals with bigger hands may struggle with the technique, but players like Wilt Chamberlain have demonstrated its efficacy despite larger hand sizes.

Q: Does Rick Barry hold any records for his underhanded free throws? A: Rick Barry had the best free-throw percentage in NBA history for 38 years until it was broken in the 1990-91 season.

Q: How long does it take for players to become proficient at underhand free throws? A: Players require regular and dedicated practice to become confident and successful with the underhand free throw, and it can take several weeks or months before significant improvements are seen.

Q: Are any renowned NBA players currently using the underhand technique? A: No, there are currently no well-known NBA players utilizing the method, but players can always learn new skills to improve their game and see success.

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