The Sacred Free Throw Ritual August 12, 2007Posted by Marquis Chapman in Basketball, College Basketball, NBA, Sports.
The free throw is one of the most important aspects in the game of basketball. The free throw line, or charity stripe, gives a player an opportunity to earn free points. There are no defenders, just the player and the basket. Making or missing free throws can sometimes determine the outcome of the game. They matter the most at the end of the game, and can transform an average player to a hero, or give a superstar player the label of a choker.
Any good player will tell you that it is an absolute must that you have a free throw routine. For 10 seconds or less, you do whatever you need to do to get relaxed and make your shots. Making a routine and doing the same thing each and every time you step to the line is key. It should become almost like a ritual in a sense, soon becoming something a player doesn’t even have to think about.
Most players roughly do the same ritual when stepping to the free throw line. There’s usually 2 to 3 dribbles, a couple of deep breaths, a short stare at the rim, and then a shot. Some however, create very unique free throw rituals. Former Utah Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek’s free throw ritual consisted of stepping to the line, taking a couple of dribbles, and rubbing the side of his face. It was later discoverd that Hornacek rubbed his face as a way to say hi to his kids.
Others use a more direct approach to say hi to family members. Jason Kidd used to blow a kiss to the rim before he shot his free throws, which was a way to say hi to his wife. I always thought that was a little weird and would be akward for anyone esle to try, but like I said, everyone has their own unique ritual.
One of the most famous rituals belongs to Karl Malone. As mentioned above, a player only gets a maximum of 10 seconds to do whatever it is they do and shoot the ball. Malone would use ALL of his 10 seconds. First, Malone would twirl the ball in his hands and take a couple of dribbles. Next, he would do a really deep knee bend, and his knees would almost be touching. Next, came the most famous part of his ritual. Malone would talk to himself for quite a while, and then shoot the ball. No one else could hear what he was saying, and he would be talking pretty fast. Malone would later tell reporters that he was just reminding himself of what to do at the free throw line. What he said exactly whenever he talked to himself remains a mystery.
Some players are so good at shooting free throws, that they are able to stray away from their usual free throw rituals. Take Michael Jordan for example. During a game against the Denver Nuggets, Jordan shot a free throw with his eyes closed. This was not an All Star game or a charity event, it was a real regular season game. And of course, he made it.
The most important aspect of the ritual is that is has to work for the player. You can have the best ritual in the world, but if you’re not making your free throws, there’s going to be problems. Sticking to the basics is probably best. I wouldn’t recommend incorporating the eyes closed thing when working on your ritual. Leave that to the professionals.