Everyone has that killer HORSE shot; the go-to spot or trick that puts your opponent in position for the fateful E.
Barry, however, reserved it for urgent situations. He used it as his in-game free throw motion.
Rick Barry’s Underhand Free Throw
RIck Barry is all about efficiency, more so, he was willing to win at any cost.
The Golden State Warriors legend and 1975 NBA Finals MVP couldn’t contemplate refusing to improve yourself for the betterment of the team. He found the most effective way to do that at the free throw line was the underhanded shot. The idea being that it’s a more fluid motion with a soft touch.
The granny-shot is about as sexy as watching watching grass grow, but the numbers don’t lie.
The University of Miami product shot an astounding 89.3 percent from the foul line over his 14-year professional career. He ranks first all-time in ABA career free throw percentage and seventh all-time in NBA career free-throw percentage.
Barry’s son Canyon Barry, a University of Florida grad and Minnesota Timberwolves G-League player, has emulated his father’s motion since high school. In his final year in the NCAA ranks, he shot 88.3 percent from the line.
As a senior, he set a Gator record by hitting 42 consecutive free throws. Canyon is the only Barry son out of Brent, Jon, Drew, and Scooter who consistently shoots free throws underhanded.
Former Louisville Cardinal Chinanu Onuaku gave it a go as a senior. As the only player outside the Barry family tree to implement the unorthodox free throw, he improved his efficiency to 58.9 percent, a 12.2-point increase from his junior year. The basketball player spent two years in the NBA with the Houston Rockets.
Rick Barry offered to teach the underhand technique to notoriously poor free throw shooters such as Hall of Fame inductees Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal. Neither would budge. The stigma outweighed the benefits.
To Barry, an eight-time All-Star, that’s unfathomable.
“When I was a kid, underhanded is how girls shot, so I did endure a lot of teasing, but it’s different now,” Barry told the Miami Herald. “Free throws are the only part of basketball where you can be completely selfish and help your team. Why wouldn’t you want to shoot at the highest percentage possible? Why would you rather people make fun of you for being a poor free-throw shooter? Why would you want to be such a liability at the end of the game that coaches take you out? I don’t understand it.”Advertisement
Cleveland Cavaliers big man Andre Drummond, Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, former Detroit Pistons defensive kingpin Ben Wallace, and DeAndre Jordan of the Brooklyn Nets (formerly of the Los Angeles Clippers) are other NBA players who fell victim.
A rule change put into effect before the 2016-17 season, in which the fouled team receives a free throw and possession in the final two minutes of each quarter as opposed to only the fourth quarter, makes the strategy less common. The same rule applies on fouls away from the ball on inbound plays.
When Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game, he went 28-for-32 (87 percent) from the stripe. It was a substantial improvement from his 61.9 percent season average. The difference? He shot underhanded. The next season, Chamberlain gave it up.
Imagine if Wilt and Shaq had learned the shot under Barry’s guidance and used it all the time. Two of the most dominant scorers the game has ever seen would’ve been even more unstoppable. Take the bad free throw shooting away and how can you slow them down?
What did these guys have to lose in trying out? Their dignity? Manhood? The game?
To Barry, the latter is all that counts.