How to Shoot Free Throws

Photo Courtesy of Erik Drost via Wikimedia Commons
Photo Courtesy of Erik Drost via Wikimedia Commons

After I set the Guinness World Record for free throws, people always ask me the same question: How do I shoot a free throw?

There are some basketball fundamentals that are used to make your free throws. But there are some things that make free throws different, too. I’ll cover a couple of those things here:

  • Elbow in. In game conditions, lots of players have their elbow out to fend off aggressive players trying to strip the ball. But at the free throw line you don’t need this.
  • Square up. Lots of shooters stagger their feet. That’s fine for three-pointers. But most coaches will tell you to square up so you don’t miss right or left. Square up on the free throw line.
  • Use your legs. I’ve heard people say that free throw shooting is an upper body motion. I disagree. I think you need to make a nice smooth shot with your legs too.
  • No Aiming. I see a lot of players stare at the basket because they really, really want to make the free throw. But this doesn’t help. Just lock in on target and shoot; It’s more accurate that way.

In my next blog I’ll cover the mental side of free throw shooting. But if you really want to improve your free throw shooting or learn how to coach free throw shooting for better results, get a copy of my video, Make Every Free Throw.

Is it Possible to Improve My Free Throw Shooting?

Aren’t free throws just easy in practice-but difficult to pull off under the pressure of a game or a championship? No. The mechanics for free throw shooting can be learned. Combine proper mechanics with focus and concentration and you will be astounded at what you can achieve. I guarantee you will improve far beyond your preconceptions.

You could almost say that a free throw is a metaphor. It represents all those things in life that are more difficult than they appear. In fact, the harder you try, the more elusive success becomes. Some react by giving up and shying away. Others bear down and succeed. And their success is greater for their struggle.

When you shoot a free throw the only thing between you and the basket is yourself. You stand alone with just your muscles, your heart, and your beliefs. Sounds too good to be true, right? Again, no. Not with the correct application of proper mechanics, focus and concentration, and tireless practice. That is the purpose of this website, and

    Make Every Free Throw

, the book paraphrased above.

If you want to learn more about this method that you can use to make every free throw, even with the championship at stake, order your copy of

    Make Every Free Throw

. Thank you for joining us here at

It’s not the “Granny-Style” of Free Throw Shooting

Earlier, we did a report on the physics of free throws. We found that Dr. Tom’s shooting style is backed up by science, since the arc of the ball is closer to perpendicular if you start from a shooting position lower down. In other words, Dr. Tom’s method. There’s just one problem: everyone thinks we are talking about the “Granny Style” of shooting free throw made famous by Rick Barry. This two-handed, underhanded method worked for him, but we don’t recommend it.

Yes, Dr. Tom is a proud grandparent (though not a grandmother!) who set the world record when he was in his 70s. But he used a much more conventional style of shooting with a one-handed release.

There’s an old saying that it always helps to remember whenever anyone tries to put you down: haters gonna hate. People may want to dump on a certain shooting but they’ll have to eat their words when they find out it works.

NBA 2014-15: The year in free throws (so far)

Kyle Korver

It’s been an exciting year for free throws – well, pretty exciting, at least. Taking a look at this year’s statistics so far, five players are shooting free throws over 90%: Kyle Korver (pictured), Jrue Holiday, Stephen CurryJamal Crawford, and Isaiah Thomas. One other fact that comes out looking at the stats is that no one is shooting in the 50-59% range, though there are a few stragglers shooting in the 40s. Time to catch up, guys.

Free Throw Training Techniques, part 1

basketball crowd

Always trying to practice what it’s like to shoot free throws under game pressure but don’t know how? Here’s a tip you can try. Part of what will be a longer series on practicing techniques.

They say Free Throws are easy, but there’s still plenty of pressure you have to overcome while shooting. At NBA and other competitive basketball games, crowds have many ways to distract players, including those annoying shakers and, in the case of the Brooklyn Nets, a really old guy named Mr. Whammy.

So here’s a tip for practicing: put on a track of crowd noise in the background as you practice. Crank it up. It may not be able to completely replicate what it’s like to shoot under game pressure, but it helps you to get into the same mindset. A big part of Dr. Tom’s method is Focus and Concentration, and you have to be able to do that not just while you’re practicing but during a game.

Free Throw Physics


Everybody hates physics, right? Well, at least any good basketball player who would rather be out on the courts than staring at a blackboard crammed with equations does. But a little physics can go a long way, and it can also help to understand why Dr. Tom’s Free Throw method is so successful.

To simplify things a bit, let’s start by assuming complete accuracy (a big assumption, but we’ll get back to that later). In this case, you have to shoot the ball with the right angle above the ground and speed for it to go in. Of course, getting the right speed and angle on the court is an issue of feel. But from a physics standpoint, if the ball arcs more, it will hit the plane of the hoop at an angle closer to 90 degrees, giving it a better chance of going in.

This idea is backed up in an article in Discover magazine, which finds that shooting a ball at just over 45 degrees (depending on the height of the player) is the best way to go. The article also advocates a shooting style virtually identical to Dr. Tom’s – though unfortunately it refers to the style as the “granny shot”, since it leads to shooting lower, and thus gives you a more direct angle at the hoop plane.

So if lower is better, why not just throw the ball underhand? That’s where accuracy comes in. If you go too low, it’s harder to control the direction of the shot, and you miss. But at just the right height, you can make sure the shot goes in. Some of Dr. Tom’s techniques, such as keeping the elbow in and feet square to the line, help with accuracy even more.

For more free throw tips, check out our book and video!

Free Throws: The Power Of 15 Feet

Bball court dimensions When you step up to the free throw line, there’s only 15 feet between you and the basket, and the points you deserve. 15 feet doesn’t sound like much. But when you step up to shoot, all of a sudden it looks like a lot more.

How do you overcome the mental pressure when you’re at the free throw line? Your team is counting on you and the pressure is on. Whether or not you make your free throws will be a key factor – most games are won or lost on the free throw line.

To make your baskets, you need to be able to focus and concentrate. Master the mental side of basketball and you’ll be able to remind yourself of the fact that at the end of the day, 15 feet is not that far.
For more tips on focus and concentration, download the player’s edition of Make Every Free Throw!

Free Throws: The Best Memes

We love Free Throws. We love cheesy internet memes. Thus, the rationale for this post: a quick collection of the best free throw related meme pics out there. We wanted to give an explanation for the back story of these memes, but that would require actual thinking. So sit back, relax, and get ready to have a few cheap laughs at the expense of some of the NBA’s worst free throw shooters.


Free throws 99 not hit one meme

Derrick Rose Free Throws

free throw percentage 12

Let’s Take A Break From the 2014 NBA Finals to Watch Dwight Howard Get Schooled At Free Throws

The mood is tense this year. That’s why I would rather talk about something completely not tense from last year to cool off for a bit. Has anyone noticed how much Dwight Howard sucks at free throw shooting? Here’s a video from last year of him losing to a sports columnist’s middle aged daughter in a free throw contest. Howard left the Lakers to go to Houston the next year, but his free throw fail continued to haunt both teams, neither of which made it to the finals this year.

Speaking of the Clippers, Free Throws Saved Their Asses in Game 5

image: Bleacher Report

While the whole Donald Sterling racism fiasco was boiling over, his team was beginning to unleash their secret weapon on the court: free throws. During game 5 on Tuesday, the Golden State Warriors unveiled a new strategy: foul the crap out of DeAndre Jordan, statistically one of the worst free throw shooters on the team. Did it work? The good folks at Grantland (a sports site I’m proudly addicted to) have an almost poetic answer:

At any Clippers game, Jordan at the free throw line is a complicated experience. All Jordan free throws are preceded by stadiumwide cheers to encourage him. It’s like a gigantic millionaire turns into everyone’s little brother, and all they want is to watch him do well.

When he misses after all that, it’s painful to watch.

When he makes them, the whole place goes delirious.

It’s pretty much basketball in its simplest possible form.

And Jordan made his free throws Tuesday. Most of them, anyway. He went 6-for-8 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, with all of Staples Center getting a little crazier with every make, and a Clippers win becoming a little more inevitable in the process. It’s a reminder of how stupid and fun sports can be. There’s nothing more basic and mundane than free throws, but Jordan turns them into an emotional roller coaster.

William Shakespeare, who just a couple of days ago turned 450, couldn’t have put it better. Reading that passage is enough to make us at Make Every Free Throw want to launch into our own fit of poetics. So here goes.

In a way, the whole Donald-Sterling-being-an-obnoxious-racist/Clippers-winning-game-5 can be compared to the foul/free throw cycle. An act of wrongdoing is committed, and the wronged party is given an opportunity to, in a certain way, right that wrong. This case is a bit odd: the wrongdoer has committed a morally reprehensible act against essentially everyone (that’s what racism is) but especially his team, who during the middle of a clutch game found themselves with an aging overweight and way-too-tanned albatross around their collective neck. But there’s a chance for redemption. Start winning, and you prove to the world that you’re ready to dump your socially inept neanderthal of an owner and be picked up by someone who has class.

And that’s exactly what the Clippers did.

Free Throws have an element of righteousness to them, righting the wrongs of an imperfect game, and by extension, world. But they also win games. Without all of Jordan’s free throws, it would have been a lot harder to win. They may be “mundane” sometimes, but they’re a key to winning. And they might also help to get rid of racism and save the world. Just sayin.