Unorthodox But Effective: Who is the NBA Player That Shot Free Throws Underhanded?

When you think of NBA free throws, you probably imagine players effortlessly shooting the ball overhand. However, there was one player who went against the status quo and shot free throws underhanded. This unconventional player was none other than Rick Barry, a retired NBA player known for his scoring and free-throw shooting ability.

Barry learned the underhand free throw technique from his father, who was also a basketball player. He adopted it in college and throughout his professional career, where he enjoyed stunning success at the line, with a career free throw percentage of 90.0%. Despite his free throw accuracy, Barry was often ridiculed by fellow players and coaches for his unorthodox style.

Yet, Barry was resolute in his approach, claiming that the underhanded free throw was a better way to shoot. He believed that it was the most natural and efficient way to shoot a basketball. Indeed, he was so confident that he challenged fellow player Wilt Chamberlain to a free throw contest, with Chamberlain shooting overhand and Barry using his signature underhand technique. Not surprisingly, Barry emerged victorious, sinking 80% of his free throws compared to Chamberlain’s 50%. It is hard to argue with results, and Rick Barry’s exceptional free throw percentage proves that his method was indeed effective.

Benefits of Shooting Underhanded Free Throws

When it comes to free throw shooting, one of the most effective techniques is shooting underhanded. This style of shooting has been around for decades, but it is not commonly used by NBA players today. Despite this, several players have found success with underhanded free throw shooting, including one player who still holds the record for the highest career free throw percentage in NBA history.

  • Improved accuracy: Shooting underhanded enhances accuracy since the ball is shot on a straighter trajectory when compared to the more common overhand shooting style. By shooting underhanded, the ball rotates backward as it’s shot, providing a spin that helps the ball stay aligned with the basket.
  • Reduced risk of injury: Shooting underhanded involves less shoulder and arm movement, minimizing the risk of shoulder and elbow injuries compared to the overhand style.
  • Easier to learn: Many players struggle with the overhand shooting style, but the underhand technique is easy to learn and execute. It requires less wrist and arm strength and is less taxing on the body.

One player who found tremendous success with the underhanded free throw shooting style was Rick Barry. He is the player who still holds the record for the highest career free throw percentage in NBA history, shooting an incredible 90% from the free-throw line over his career. Barry used an underhanded technique throughout his career and attributes his success to it.

While shooting underhanded free throws may seem unconventional, it certainly has its benefits. Players looking to improve their free throw shooting should consider giving it a try.

History of Underhanded Free Throw Shooting in the NBA

Underhanded free throw shooting is a technique that is still used by a few modern NBA players, but it was much more common in the past. Let’s take a closer look at the history of this unique shooting style:

  • Wilt Chamberlain was perhaps the most well-known NBA player to use the underhanded free throw shooting style. Despite being a subpar free throw shooter at the start of his career, Chamberlain switched to the underhanded style and saw his free throw percentage rise significantly.
  • Rick Barry is another famous player who used the underhanded technique. He was known for his accuracy, and even though his teammates would often poke fun at him for using the “granny shot,” he continued to use the style and achieved a career free throw percentage of over 90%.
  • Other notable NBA players who have used the underhanded style include Chris Dudley and Connie Hawkins. Even Hall of Famers like Bill Russell and Bob Cousy have experimented with the technique.

Despite the success that several NBA players have had with the underhanded free throw shooting technique, it has never become a popular method in the league. Part of the reason for this is likely due to a perceived stigma around shooting free throws underhanded, as it is often seen as being less cool or less masculine than other shooting styles.

However, as players and coaches continue to experiment with different techniques and work to improve all aspects of their game, it’s possible that we could see a resurgence of the underhanded free throw shooting style in the future.

Player Career Free Throw Percentage with Underhanded Style
Wilt Chamberlain 60%
Rick Barry 90%
Chris Dudley 45%
Connie Hawkins 79%

As you can see from the above table, the underhanded style has worked extremely well for some NBA players, while others have struggled with it. Regardless, the history of underhanded free throw shooting in the NBA is a fascinating one, and it’s intriguing to think about what the future may hold for this unique shooting technique.

NBA Players Who Have Shot Underhanded Free Throws

Underhanded free throws remain a rare sight in the modern NBA. However, it has been proven to be a highly effective technique, with legendary player Rick Barry holding a remarkable career free throw percentage of 89.3% using this method. Here are some NBA players who have successfully employed underhanded free throws in their careers:

  • Wilt Chamberlain: Arguably the most dominant player in NBA history, Chamberlain switched to underhanded free throws in the latter half of his career. The change paid off, as he increased his career free throw percentage from 51.1% to 61.8%.
  • Connie Hawkins: The 1968 ABA MVP, Hawkins was known for his unique playing style. He also shot underhanded free throws, which helped him achieve a career free throw percentage of 79.9%.
  • Chinanu Onuaku: A current NBA player, Onuaku adopted the underhanded free throw technique during his college career at Louisville. He continued to use this style in the pros, shooting 69.9% from the free-throw line in his rookie season with the Houston Rockets.

The Advantages of Using the Underhanded Free Throw Technique

Why isn’t the underhanded free throw more popular in the NBA? Actors James Earl Jones and Caleb Brown once answered this question in a great short story written by Malcolm Gladwell: the underhanded shot looks funny, and looking funny creates a psychological barrier to its adoption.

Nevertheless, there are a few advantages to adopting the underhand free throw technique:

  • The use of two hands allows for more control of the ball trajectory. This results in a more accurate and consistent shot.
  • Shooting underhanded takes less energy, which is crucial during long games or when players are fatigued.
  • It’s a difficult shot to block since it’s shot lower than standard free throws, which means a player can’t jump as high to block it.

A Comparison of Free Throw Statistics Between Overhanded and Underhanded Techniques

As mentioned earlier, Rick Barry’s free throw percentage stands at an impressive 89.3%. In comparison, the all-time NBA career free throw percentage record is held by Steve Nash, who shot overhand and retired with 90.4%. However, the shooting styles of these two players represent extremes. Generally, players who opt for an underhand technique do not enjoy such a significant increase in their free throw percentage. The table below shows the free throw statistics of three players who have adopted the underhand technique, compared to three players who shoot overhand:

Player Name Shooting Technique Career Free Throw Percentage
Rick Barry Underhanded 89.3
Wilt Chamberlain Underhanded 61.8
Chinanu Onuaku Underhanded 68.2
Steve Nash Overhanded 90.4
Ray Allen Overhanded 89.4
Karl Malone Overhanded 74.2

While shooting free throws underhanded may not be the most widely adopted technique in the NBA, those who have successfully employed it have shown that it can be a highly effective way of putting points on the board.

Techniques for Perfecting the Underhanded Free Throw

One of the NBA’s most memorable players, Rick Barry, shot his free throws underhanded, or “granny style,” throughout his career. He shot with an incredible 90% accuracy, making him one of the most successful free throw shooters in history. However, in the modern era, the vast majority of players shoot their free throws overhand, and few use the underhanded technique.

However, learning the underhanded free throw can have significant advantages over the traditional overhand technique. Here are some techniques to perfect the underhand free throw:

  • Start with a wide stance, with your feet perpendicular to the free-throw line, and your toes pointing towards the basket.
  • The ball should be held at waist-height, with your dominant hand underneath and your non-dominant hand at the side, ready to support and guide the ball up towards the basket.
  • As you shoot, begin by bending your knees slightly, dip the ball down and back behind your head, and propel it forward with a smooth underhanded motion. Release the ball when it reaches the highest point behind your head, ensuring that the ball has a nice backspin.
  • Follow through with your motion, extending your arms towards the basket, and holding that position until the ball reaches the hoop.

The underhanded free throw technique may take some time to perfect, but the results can be incredibly rewarding. Not only can this technique provide a much higher accuracy rate, but it can also help reduce energy fatigue in your arms, making it an effective technique for players of all ages and abilities.

But despite the advantages, the underhanded free throw technique remains underutilized in modern basketball. One reason is that it is often seen as less cool or stylish than the overhand technique, and players may feel self-conscious in adopting such a style on the court. But if the goal is to win games, the underhanded free throw is undoubtedly an effective technique that merits consideration.

Advantages of the Underhanded Free Throw Disadvantages of the Overhand Free Throw
High shooting accuracy due to the backspin Low accuracy from fatigue or pressure
A less strenuous motion on the arms A higher risk of injury or strain
Quick shooting motion, reducing the chance of fouls Longer shooting motion, increasing the chance of fouls

The underhanded free throw is a technique that requires confidence and practice to master, but its results speak for themselves. By adopting this underutilized technique, players can improve their accuracy, reduce energy fatigue, and become more efficient on the court, ultimately increasing their team’s chances of winning.

Comparing Shooting Percentage of Overhanded vs. Underhanded Free Throws

One of the most effective ways to compare the shooting percentage of overhanded and underhanded free throws is by analyzing the data of players who have used both methods. One such player is Wilt Chamberlain, who switched from overhand to underhand free throws and went from shooting 51% to 61% at the free-throw line. Rick Barry is another example of a successful underhanded free throw shooter, with a career average of 89.3%. On the other hand, Shaquille O’Neal, known for his notoriously poor free throw shooting, attempted to use the underhand technique but abandoned it due to his difficulty in mastering the form.

  • Players who switch from overhand to underhand free-throws, like Wilt Chamberlain, typically see a significant improvement in their shooting percentage.
  • Not all players are willing to use the underhand technique because of the perceived stigma attached to it, impacting their performance at the free-throw line.
  • A successful underhand free-throw shooter like Rick Barry has an average of 89.3%, making him one of the most successful free-throw players in NBA history.

Examining a larger sample of players’ free throw data also shows that underhanded free throws can be beneficial. When comparing the average free throw percentages of NBA players who shoot underhanded versus overhanded, players using the underhanded technique averaged 70.4% while those using the overhanded shot averaged only 69.1%. While this difference may seem small, the increased percentage could make all the difference in a close game.

Technique Average Free Throw Percentage
Overhanded 69.1%
Underhanded 70.4%

In conclusion, underhanded free throws have proven to be an effective technique for some players, and the data shows that it may lead to a higher shooting percentage. However, players must overcome the perceived stigma of using the technique and put in the necessary practice to master the form.

The Psychology of Free Throw Shooting: Why Some Players Switch to Underhanded

Free throw shooting is one of the most crucial aspects of basketball. However, despite being an inherent part of the game, it is also one of the most difficult skills to master. The pressure of making free throws in clutch situations causes many players to struggle when taking the shot. This is where the underhanded free throw comes in. In this article, we will explore the psychology of free throw shooting and why some players switch to underhanded.

  • Improving Accuracy: One of the primary reasons why players switch to underhanded free throws is to improve their accuracy. Studies have shown that shooting underhanded increases a player’s chances of making the shot. This is because the underhanded motion releases the ball from a higher point and creates a backspin that helps the ball go straighter towards the hoop.
  • Reducing Pressure: Underhanded free throws can also help reduce the pressure that some players feel when taking the shot. Shooting underhanded requires less energy and involves a smoother motion that can feel more natural to some players. This can help players feel more relaxed and confident when taking free throws.
  • Mental Block: Sometimes, players struggle with their free-throw shooting because of a mental block. They may have had a bad experience in the past or may feel anxious about making the shot. In these cases, switching to underhanded may help players overcome their mental block and gain confidence in their shooting.

Switching to underhanded free throws may seem like a no-brainer for players struggling with their shooting. However, one of the main reasons why more players don’t adopt this technique is the social stigma associated with it. Shooting underhanded is often seen as “uncool” and players who opt for it may be subject to ridicule from their peers.

Nevertheless, despite the stigma, several players throughout the history of the NBA have successfully switched to underhanded free throws and improved their shooting significantly. The most famous example of this is probably Rick Barry, who made over 90% of his free throws using an underhanded technique.

Player Free Throw Percentage (Career)
Rick Barry 89.3%
Wilt Chamberlain 51.1%
Chinanu Onuaku 38.0%

In conclusion, underhanded free throws may not be the most popular technique, but they have a lot of potential to help players improve their shooting. With more awareness and less stigma, perhaps more players will adopt this technique and find success on the free throw line.

Overcoming the Stigma of Shooting Underhanded Free Throws in the NBA

One of the biggest challenges in shooting underhanded free throws in the NBA is the stigma attached to it. The underhand free throw, also known as the “granny shot,” is often seen as a sign of weakness or lack of skill. This perception is so deeply ingrained in basketball culture that many players would rather miss free throws with poor form than switch to an underhand shot.

However, over the years, a few brave players have challenged this stigma and found success with underhanded free throws. Perhaps the most famous of these players is Rick Barry, who shot an impressive 90% from the free-throw line throughout his NBA career using an underhand technique.

Benefits of Shooting Underhanded Free Throws

  • Improved accuracy: Shooting underhanded can actually improve a player’s free throw accuracy by decreasing the number of variables involved in the shot.
  • Less strain on the body: The underhand shot is also less taxing on the body, making it an attractive option for players with chronic pain or injuries.
  • Improved confidence: Finally, shooting underhanded can help players overcome mental blocks and improve their confidence at the free-throw line.

How Players Can Overcome the Stigma

To overcome the stigma attached to underhanded free throws, players need to shift their mindset and focus on the benefits of the technique. They can also learn from successful underhand shooters like Rick Barry and seek out coaching and support from coaches and teammates.

Another way players can overcome the stigma is by sharing success stories and research that supports the effectiveness of the underhand shot. In fact, a recent study found that shooting underhanded can increase free-throw accuracy by as much as 10%.


Shooting underhanded free throws in the NBA may seem like a daunting task for many players, but it doesn’t need to be. By shifting their mindset, focusing on the benefits of the technique, and seeking support from coaches and teammates, players can overcome the stigma and find success at the free-throw line.

Player Free-Throw Percentage (Career) Shooting Technique
Rick Barry 90% Underhand
Wilt Chamberlain 51.1% Underhand (occasionally)
Chinanu Onuaku 50% Underhand

As the table shows, shooting underhanded can be a successful strategy for free-throw shooting in the NBA. It’s time for more players to embrace this technique and overcome the stigma attached to it.

FAQs about NBA player who shot free throws underhanded

1. Who was the NBA player who shot free throws underhanded?

The NBA player who shot free throws underhanded was Rick Barry.

2. Why did Rick Barry shoot free throws underhanded?

Rick Barry shot free throws underhanded because he was struggling with his shooting percentage and decided to try underhanded style.

3. Did Rick Barry’s underhanded free throw style help him improve his shooting percentage?

Yes, Rick Barry’s underhanded free throw style helped him improve his shooting percentage and he became a successful free-throw shooter.

4. What was the nickname given to Rick Barry because of his underhanded free throws?

Rick Barry was nicknamed “The Barefoot Contessa” because he shoots free-throws underhanded and he played some games in the NBA without shoes on.

5. Are there any other NBA players who shoot free throws underhanded?

Currently, there are no NBA players who shoot free throws underhanded, but some college and high school players still use this style.

6. Is shooting free throws underhanded a popular technique?

No, shooting free throws underhanded is not a popular technique as most players shoot free throws overhanded.

7. Why don’t more players adopt this technique if it improves their shooting percentage?

Shooting free throws underhanded is often stigmatized as being uncool or embarrassing, which discourages many players from trying it out.

Closing paragraph

Thanks for reading about Rick Barry and his underhanded free throws! It’s interesting to learn about unconventional methods that players use to improve their performance. While Rick Barry’s technique may not be for everyone, it’s important to keep an open mind and experiment with different strategies to find what works best for you. Don’t forget to visit us again for more fascinating articles on the world of basketball!