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How to Shoot Free Throws

Updated on April 25, 2016

Hey everybody. Today I am going to write a blog about how to shoot free throws. The reason? After watching the Chicago Bulls, Portland Trailblazers game the other night, I was disgusted by how many free points we missed out on at the free throw line. This has to end and we need to take advantage of those easy points. Theres a reason they are called FREE throws and the Chicago Bulls need to sink them in order for the team to win.

#1 The first step in shooting a free throw is in the lineup. When you step up to the line, it is important to square your body (shoulders) up to the basket and space your legs apart to shoulder width. The last thing you need to be sure to do is key to any great free throw shooter and that is line your dominant foot (the big toe on that foot) along the midpoint on the free throw line. This will ensure that your are squared up to the basket and increase your chances of sinking the shot by a lot.

#2 The next step takes place after receiving the ball from the referee. All great free throw shooters have a motion they do before they shoot. Gilbert Arenas from the Washington Wizards used to hand the ball around his back three times before he took his shot, Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz used to repeat the same words every time before he took his first shot, and Rip Hamilton used to dribble twice in front of himself and once to the right side before he took a shot. I personally will take two hard dribbles in front of me and say the same two words before each shot, "For Rosemary". This is in honor of my great aunt who always supported me growing up in all my basketball ventures. Be sure to make up your own ritual as I really do believe to be a great free throw shooter is not only something physical (the mechanics of the shot) but also mental as you can get into your "zone" and see nothing else around you. Simply put, do what you came here to do.

#3 The third step in shooting free throws is all mechanical. You have to bend your knees first while you pull back the ball to take a shot. Your four fingers should be on the and your thumb should be balancing the ball only as the ball will hit its rotation through your four fingers. Your non-dominant hand should also be balancing the ball and keeping everything still. Do not grip the ball with your non-dominant hand or you will throw off the trajectory of the shot and will miss.

#4 The fourth step is going back to how you need to have your knees. When you bend your knees you also have to immediately starting lifting your arms and the ball back to take a shot. Bend them about half the amount you can go down. Your arms and legs will be working together in a sense at this point. Cock back your arm until you can see the basketball in your peripheral vision above your head. On your way back up from bending your knees is when you actually shoot the ball. Remember shooting mechanics 101: do not let your guide hand into the shot. Flick your wrists people! Do not just loft the ball up at the basket all hard or try banking it in off the backboard. If you do, you'll look like a scrub who can not play the game or shoot. Flick your wrists on the way up and aim for the back of the rim. Remember to put a little arc on the shot too. There is nothing more ugly and worse than "throwing darts" that is, shooting a flat shot. So once you bend your knees and lift and cock back the ball in your arm simultaneously and lift your legs up and flick your wrist as you shoot you will need to do one more thing.

#5 The fifth and last step is the follow through on a free throw. Remember once you have bent your knees and lift and cock back the ball in your arm simultaneously and lift your legs up and flick your wrist with a little arc as you shoot you will have to follow through on the shot. What do I mean by this? I mean "leave it there" as we basketball players say. Leave your arm in the air after your take your free throw to ensure that the shooting motion is followed through and correct. It's very similar to a quarterback in football throwing a pass and letting their arm go throw the total cross body action or in tennis when you serve and you let your arm cross over your body to follow through on it. Only in the case of a free throw, your arm is left in the air in a shooting motion. Without a follow through on your free throw, you risk throwing off the trajectory of the shot and will miss to either the left or the right (depending on your dominant hand) of the basket.

These are the five steps in shooting a free throw. Most of the time you are on the free throw line is because you were fouled while shooting the ball. This means you'll have a second shot. It is important to remember that if you miss your first shot not to let it affect you and if you make your first shot not to let it affect you because in both cases you still have one shot left. It can be very bad if you get upset after missing a foul shot as I feel you do have a higher chance of missing the next shot. The same goes for making the first shot, if you get too cocky about it, you may get distracted and miss the next shot if you are not a great free throw shooter yet. So stay humble when shooting!

The last thing that is important to remember as it pertains to missing/making free throws is to be ready to get a rebound. I made it a constant effort to always chase after my makes/misses on the free throw line. I can remember one game in high school, getting 8 points off my misses on the free throw line as I realized quickly that the other team couldn't out rebound me as I was taller and stronger than them. So always be sure to follow every free throw and shot in general you take as if you are going to brick the shot.

Let's just hope the Chicago Bulls see this and use this instructional guide to start making some shots!


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