A friend looked at slow motion video of my free throw shot after I set the world’s free throw record by making 2,750 free throws in a row. He had a question.
“What’s that thing in your shooting motion?”
“It’s like a little hitch, like your cocking your arm or something.”
My answer was the same I’ve used many times: “I don’t know. But it works.”
If you download my video, you’ll see that, just before I shoot, I pull my arm back just a little — but always the same amount. If you look at the motion of all the great shooters you’ll see that, when they have time — and on longer shots — they have a small extra motion as they load up and shoot. It’s like they’re trying to get the feel of the shot before they let it go. They put their arm in the slot. And find the back of the net.
In other sports athletes subconsciously develop hitches, twitches, rituals and quirks that keep them loose and increase their feel. In basketball, let’s face it, the free throw is a feel shot. You initiate the shot and decide when to let it go. That’s part of what befuddles many players. They actually shoot better under pressure, because they don’t have time to think.
I have a friend who’s a big golfer and they actually have a name for their hitch. They call it the “waggle.” It’s a small rehearsal of the real swing.
Another reason to develop a shooting hitch is because, at least from the line, it delivers the same amount of distance each time. My mantra is: do the same thing every time and the ball goes in the basket. Get the ball in the right position, bend your legs, put your arm in the slot.
Think about how you feel when the ball is in your fingers, you’re looking at the basket and you know you’re going to sink the basket. That’s the feeling you want to develop. And having a little hitch will trigger that feeling.