The Underhanded Free Throw: An Unnecessary Image Problem

About a month ago, I had a basketball game on in the background while I was working and I heard one of the announcers (Jeff Van Gundy) say something about an underhanded free throw. When I first heard it, I chuckled a little bit and then I thought about it more… why don’t some NBA players should free throws underhanded?

The point of basketball is to score more points than your opponent. If you can be more effective (read: score more) shooting free throws underhanded than you can overhanded, what argument could you possibly make for not shoot underhanded? The only things that come to mind:

1) It’s how we’ve always done it; and

2) It looks “stupid.”

Are there two arguments that are more lacking in substance? “It’s how we’ve always done it,” is the kind of argument that perpetuates a business’s lazy policies on innovation and lead to its eventual demise. “It looks stupid,” is the same kind of defense we can expect from a playground argument.

It turns out, the idea of underhanded free throws is not new. I found this video on YouTube of Rick Barry shooting underhanded free throws and saying how he was once talking to Shaquille O’Neal (one of the better players to play basketball, but one of the “not-so-good” free throw shooters) about shooting free throws underhanded:

So, if Rick Barry, one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history can shoot free throws underhanded, what’s stopping everyone else?

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