Can the ‘granny shot’ save struggling free throw shooters?
Monday, June 12, 2017
In basketball, watching a player showcase proper shooting form can be a vision of beauty.
And when a basketball player heads to the free throw line, that player's form can be a topic of discussion — especially when that player is a big-time college or professional player.
Any basketball coach would admit a game can be won or lost on the free throw line. Thus, it's no surprise that the NBA Finals features some of the best free throw shooters in the game in Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant.
Making every free throw is important. But as we watch basketball on any level — from the pros on down — free throws seem to take more and more of a back seat in the development of a player's game.
Image can play a role in what society considers a fundamentally sound free throw attempt — as taught by arguably the greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan.
But what if all free throws were shot underhanded? Would that help a player struggling at the line?
According to a study by professors from Yale and Harvard, the underhanded free throw — affectionately known as the granny shot — can be a more accurate attempt than a traditional free throw attempt.
The study, "Optimal strategies for throwing accurately," focuses on how throwing is "governed by how errors in planning and initial conditions are propagated by the dynamics of the projectile." The study analyzes how throwing slower and relying on optimal strategy (launch angle and speed) can lead to more accuracy.
Is it a prettier shot attempt than what Jordan taught? No. There's a reason why the underhanded shot is called the "granny." Many basketball followers would say it looks like the attempt a grandmother would take.
Is the shot effective? Absolutely.
Ask Rick Barry. As one of the NBA's all-time greats, Barry played in the league from 1965-80 and shot 90 percent from the line for his career. Barry specialized in results over aesthetics, which is why he wasn't ashamed to use the granny shot at the professional ranks.
"I really truly can't comprehend the aversion people have to trying something that could be very effective for them," Barry said in a recent NPR story focusing on him and his youngest son Canyon, who played college ball at Charleston and Florida and used the granny shot in free throws.
Why aren't more athletes using the underhanded attempt? Again, image is everything. The granny shot is an ugly shot. Ugly, but effective.
Take Wilt Chamberlain, for example. Chamberlain is considered one of the greatest centers of all time, but he also was only a 51 percent free throw shooter for his career. Chamberlain used the method during the 1961-62 NBA season and increased his free throw percentage by more than 10 percent.
However, he dropped the shot primarily because of how it looked and felt. It didn't feel natural — and for a man who stood 7-foot-1, it didn't look natural. He went back to his regular shooting technique and didn't shoot better than 60 percent from the line for the rest of his career, which lasted from 1959-73.
"I felt silly, like a sissy, shooting underhanded," Chamberlain said in his autobiography. "I know I was wrong, I know some of the best foul shooters in history shot that way. I just couldn't do it."
Another dominant center of the NBA's history, Shaquille O'Neal, had free throw issues and refused to shoot underhanded. Rick Barry wanted to fix O'Neal's shooting woes, but O'Neal declined his assistance. Aesthetics, once again, played a role against using the method.
"Sorry, can't do it Rick," O'Neal told the San Antonio Express-News. "I'd rather shoot 0 percent; too cool for that."
According to a 2016 report, Chamberlain ranked sixth all-time regarding the worst free throw shooters the NBA's ever seen. Four of those athletes made less than 50 percent from the line, including current NBA stars Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan.
Considering the extreme amount of money professionals get to make shots, you would think those who struggle from the line would use the underhanded attempts. And you would think college and high school athletes would take advantage in an effort to help their teams and also raise their personal statistics. Alas, it happens rarely.
If the "optimal strategies" study is accurate, proper technique with the underhanded free throw can improve a basketball player's overall worth and make him an asset for his team. When it comes to shooting, sometimes being pretty should take a back seat to being a vital weapon on the court.
Rick Barry would approve. He has the stats to prove it.
- Best exercises for gluteus medius strengthening
- Pectoralis minor: Far from a minor problem
- The importance of hip internal rotation
- The top 5 exercises you should be doing
- Tight calf muscles: The Achilles’ heel of new runners
- Advice to high school athletes from a former Texas Longhorn
- Everything you always wanted to know about blood doping and EPO
- Apple attempts mobile health dominance with HealthKit app
- Infographic: Could universal basic income work?
- The 6-month association checkup
- The economic impact of our aging population
- Creating a sustainable organization through facilities management
- Employers are using severance packages to protect their brands
See your work in future editions
Your content, Your Expertise,
Your Industry Needs YOUR Expert Voice & We've got the platform you needFind Out How