Issue 114: Strange Free Throw Routines

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This issue is sponsored by Chris Meyer, author of Life in 20 Lessons: What a Funeral Guy Discovered About Life, from Death and The ‘Wood, who is excited to announce his upcoming book, Four Months … And A Lifetime.

Four Months … And A Lifetime is the touching true story of a father who coached his son’s basketball team from kindergarten through eighth grade, a remarkable nine-year journey with the same boys.

Their final march to the eighth-grade season Championship is interspersed with Chris Meyer’s own journey of falling in love with basketball in early-seventies New York, filled with anecdotes of Dr. J, sneaking into Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, and playing pickup in Larry Bird’s home state of Indiana. This is not only a love story about a father and his son, but of a coach who strived to teach his team the greatest game of basketball and, hopefully, a few life lessons along the way.

You can purchase your copy of Four Months … And A Lifetime anywhere books are sold, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books. The audiobook is also available on Audible and iTunes.

Issue 114: Strange Free Throw Routines

Before we hop into this issue, I have to…ahem, issue an apology. The last email you got from me covered the best fan chants.

But as astute reader Vince pointed out, I completely overlooked one of the best ones out there: the simple, yet highly effective “air ball,” or if we’re spelling it phonetically, “airrrrrr ballllllll.”

Vince even shared historical research on the subject matter and reminded me of Dave Barry’s delightful bit on the topic.

Perhaps this is a good time to mention that I interviewed Dave Barry for a broadcast journalism class in college. His wife, Michelle Kaufmann, also a terrific writer, was one of my journalism professors, which is another solid reminder that knowing people is half the battle toward success.

In any case, I interviewed Dave about a bunch of stuff, but all I remember is he called me out for “not wearing pants” because I had basketball shorts on. Hey, only the top half of me was on camera, and that looked snazzy with a nice shirt, sport coat, and tie.

But the interview ended with Dave yelling “he’s not wearing pants!” as the camera faded to black. Sadly, that’s still probably a top on-camera moment for me.

Anyway, I’m sorry I forgot about the airball chant. Though it segues nicely into today’s focus: weird free throw routines.

Because, yes, you most certainly can shoot an airball on free throws. Sometimes even twice in a row.

Jerry Stackhouse and the deep squats

Jerry Stackhouse already has a fantastic name. I’m onboard. His free throw routine? Not so much.

I don’t mind doing squats now and again, but I don’t think I’d want to shoot a free throw right after I perform said squat.

My knees are creaking just looking at this photo. Then again, Jerry Stackhouse shot a bit over 82% for his career, so I suppose you could do worse.

Rip Hamilton with the unusual bounce

When you’re shooting a free throw in a hostile environment, you have to block out a lot of distractions.

You’re going to have people yelling, booing, waving props, or maybe even holding enormous cutouts of their own face.

Rip Hamilton blocks out all that noise with a big ol’ deep breath. He then takes two dribbles in front of him and one to the side before collecting himself and shooting.

I was playing high school ball right when the Detroit Pistons dynasty was at its peak in the early to mid-2000s. And you better believe I adopted this free-throw technique.

I didn’t wear a face mask, though, so maybe that’s why I didn’t shoot 85% as Hamilton did for his career. Alas…

Here, Hamilton reprises his technique for the announcement of a new pair of shoes.

Jeff Hornacek wipes his face

Over the course of a basketball game, your hands get pretty dirty.

You’re not only touching a ball that everyone is sweating on, but you’re also touching people’s hands, your shoes, the floor, the rim…I promise you despite everything being sanitized pre-game and/or during timeouts, it’s only a matter of time before the grime returns to wreak havoc.

Jeff Hornacek doesn’t care about any of that. He wiped his face three times every single time he stepped up to the free-throw line.

It wasn’t some sadistic plot to cover his face with germs, though. That was Hornacek’s way of saying hello to his three kids, Tyler, Ryan and Abigaile.

And Hornacek shot nearly 88% from the line (making him among the top 20 best free-throw shooters ever), so really the key thing here is the importance of routine. Even if it is kinda unorthodox.

Jason Kidd blows a kiss

Similar to Hornacek, Kidd’s free-throw routine was an announcement to his wife and kids that he was thinking about them.

This one might be even grosser than Hornacek’s — despite the sweet motivation behind it — because dirty hands are touching lips.

I’m just picturing dropping a sandwich on the floor (let’s say a hearty pastrami on rye), and maybe someone steps on it for good measure. Then I pick it up and chow down like it ain’t no thang.

Kidd was a mere 79% free throw shooter for his career, but he certainly was leaps and bounds better than our last fella.

Chuck Hayes, uh…does this

Chuck Hayes played for more than a decade in the NBA, so it’s hard to say he had a bad career. And he even finished with a 62% free throw percentage, which isn’t the worst rate out there.

But for a stretch…woof, he was BAD.

He had a hitch in his shot that often caused lane violations, audible gasps, and confused stares from everyone at the line and in the stands. When he missed, it was one of the worst-looking things you’ll ever see.

At his absolute lowest, Hayes shot 36.8% from the free-throw line. He did bounce back to post some solid numbers later in his career, though we’ll never forget this clip below, which includes Allen Iverson saying “he traveled” in reference to Hayes’ shot.

Outside of this scene, I’ve never seen an entire arena laugh at someone’s free-throw shooting technique.