Current NBA Players Refuse to Emulate Rick Barry's Free Throw Shooting Style

Published on June 18th, 2024 8:40 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

Granny Shot? - No Thanks. Shaq. Rick Barry is one of the best free throw shooters of all time.

During his time in the ABA, Barry averaged 88% from the free throw line.

During his time in the NBA, Barry averaged 90% from the free throw line.

Combine those two lines, and Rick Barry is the seventh best free throw shooter of all time.

Barry, who was selected 2nd overall in the 1965 NBA Draft, is considered by many to be one of the greatest players of all time.


Rick Barry did something very unusual.

Rick Barry shot his free throws UNDERHANDED for the entirety of his professional basketball career.

While other players used the traditional overhead shooting motion, Barry decided to shoot his free throws underhanded, and with great success.


Barry had a good reason for shooting underhanded - it is proven to work.

In fact, studies by physicists, such as Professor Peter Brancazio of Brooklyn College, have proven that the underhanded shooting style, or "granny shot", is the better way to shoot a free throw.

The reasons are pretty straightforward - the "granny" style of free throw shooting is easier to replicate, over and over, due to there being less movement involved, and the underhanded motion produces backspin, which makes it easier for the ball to go inside the hoop.

Rick Barry learned this lesson from his father, who was also a basketball player. Barry didn't like shooting free throws this way, until he saw how successful he could be doing it.


So why don't current NBA players shoot free throws in the "granny style", when it has been proven to work?

The reason? It looks funny.

Shaquille O'Neal, who famously struggled from the free throw line, told Rick Barry that he would rather shoot "0%" from the free throw line than shoot underhanded. Barry had suggested that Shaq consider using the underhanded style for free throws, and Shaq shot him down.

Rick Barry said that he would be able to shoot 80% from the free throw line "with his eyes closed".

Imagine how much better Shaq would have been if he had shot 75% from the free throw line, instead of his career average of 52.7%? He would have added a couple of points per game to his career point totals, and he would have been much harder to defend. The "Hack a Shaq" style of defending him would have gone out the window, and Shaq would have been even more dominant, as fouling him wouldn't have been such a clear option.

Instead, NBA players with subpar free throw shooting percentages continue to look down their noses at the "granny style" of shooting free throws, as they don't want to be seen as "shooting like a girl".

The facts are the facts - the underhanded motion is the superior motion when it comes to shooting free throws.

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