By Zach Goblisch, Aviator Features Editor
Free throws: Just a player, the ball, and the hoop. As a basketball enthusiast striving to one day coach basketball at the high school level, I am well aware that free throws can make or break a team’s chances of winning the game.
The term “free throw” makes the shot seem much easier than it is. It takes a significant amount of time for a player to develop a rhythm and pattern that becomes proficient on the court when standing at the “charity stripe.”
Some habits or shooting forms are significantly different than others, including Houston Rockets rookie Chinanu Onuaku.
Some players kick a leg, and others dribble the ball a certain number of times. I personally have a specific breathing pattern I go through that best prepares me for the shot. Onuaku, on the other hand, uses a shot form that has been most notably used in careless shoot arounds in the driveway: the classic underhand “granny” shot.
What many people are unaware of is the success of the underhand free throw. Looking at the physics behind it, the backspin produced by the ball creates a reverse spin as to where the ball is going; this greatly decreases the chances of the ball clanking off the rim in various directions.
In addition, the arcing path which the ball takes is a much straighter and direct path than the one normally taken by a more conventional shooting form, which gives the player more control.
Statistically, the underhand shot has proven successful in the cases of many NBA greats. NBA Hall of Famer and 12-time all star Rick Barry was one of the first players to use the underhand free throw, and he finished his career with an 89.3 percent free throw percentage, which ranks fourth all-time.
Calvin Murphy, who ranks eighth on that same list, shot 89.2 percent from the free throw line with the underhand technique.
While Onuaku has not had quite the success from the line in the past, the history of players that used the underhand free throw shows that with practice, it can become a deadly weapon.
It has also brought the question as to whether or not players that struggle from the line should make the transfer to the underhand free throw. Players like Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons and DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers, who average 38 and 42.1 percent respectively, are players that have been discussed as possible players to make the switch.
While we may not see Coach Winchester teaching young athletes how to shoot underhand free throws, the so-called “granny shot” will forever be the lost art of basketball.