Hacking the free throw: the science behind the most practiced shot in sports

The free throw is the rare instance in sport where a player can attempt to score without any defensive pressure. So why do so many top players struggle?

Despite the name, free throws only seem free. Though they are one of the few, or perhaps only, opportunities in sport during which the defense steps aside, many NBA players struggle with consistently making the uncontested 15ft shot. But that’s nothing new, despite advancements in nearly every other physical skill, NBA free throw shooting percentage has bounced around 75% since the early 1970’s.

In today’s NBA, it’s much more exciting to shoot three-pointers. NBA players are human beings too, generally young people that were brought up on SportsCenter and YouTube. And let’s face it, shooting free throws is kind of boring, even for the NBA players that struggle to make free throws. That’s reflected in the continued rise of three-point attempts – currently at an all-time high of nearly 40 per game – and the fall of free throw attempts to nearly the lowest in 60 years. For all the talk about the analytical advantages of three-point shooting, it doesn’t get better than a shot taken without a defender and a stopped clock.

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The Guardian

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