Until the basketball role models--NBA, WNBA and collegiate players and teams--make a concerted effort to improve their free throw shooting percentages, younger players are not going to take seriously the need for better free throw shooting. And, coaches will continue to be (as a group) less than adequately prepared and willing to teach correct free throw shooting technique. Whatever is done at the higher levels is emulated at the younger levels of play. One only has to look at the way youngsters copycat the dribbling techniques and 3-point shooting of the older players to grasp this. When free throw shooting percentages improve at the higher levels, youngsters will want to be better at the line too.
How many times have you watched a game that is close in the last few minutes, where free throws can make a difference in winning or losing? Did you know that approximately 22.5% of the total points scored in a pro game are from free throws, and in a close game (which most pro games are), the points scored from the FT line account for most of the points scored in the last 2 minutes? When approximately one-quarter of a team's points are from free throws, wouldn't you think more attention would be paid to perfecting this under-appreciated area?
Most players who shoot close to 50 per cent from the floor (and that's shooting mostly from close to the hoop) still don't shoot above 70% from the free throw line. In fact, the national (U.S.) average for high school boys and girls, for college men and women and for the NBA and WNBA is close to 70%. Sure, there are individuals who shoot with mastery from the line, at over 85% during games, but they are few and far between. In the entire history of the NBA, there are less than 50 players who achieved 85% or better during their careers.
So, why the low free throw shooting percentages when there is no defense and no hurry? The answer is basically two-fold. First, players spend more time practicing their other shots and the rest of their game, to the detriment of their free shots. They don't understand perfect practice shooting techniques at the free throw line nor how to incorporate free throw drills into their workouts to simulate real game situations. Secondly, not enough attention is given to correct teaching for the free throw and there are so many ideas about how to teach this that few coaches are able to teach the art of good free throw shooting. Coaches, for the most part, don't know how to set up a proper free throw program for their players, nor for that matter, have the ability to shoot and demonstrate free throw mastery, which is 96% in practice.
Enter the National Basketball Shooters Association , a newly formed non-profit organization founded and composed of mostly free throw masters (shooting over 96% in competition) whose mission is very simple: To elevate free throw percentages at all levels of competition and to raise both the NBA and WNBA to 85% in their respective leagues over the next two years. The NBSA intends to accomplish this by sanctioning a series of free throw mastery tournaments, instructional programs and standardization for teaching. Local, city, state and regional tournaments will culminate in a national event. Free instructional clinics will be held at most of the tournament sites. The goal is an ambitious one, but the NBSA already has free throw masters in place (like Jim "Makevery" Schatz, Ed Palubinskas, Dr. Tom Amberry, Dr. Jim Poteet, Fred Newman, Rick Rosser and Ted St. Martin--several of these are in the Guiness Record Book) in their organization who can make this vision a reality.
The official kick-off for the NBSA , and their national series of sanctioned tournaments, is being planned to coincide with 2010's NCAA Final Four, for both men and women. Once the competition and teaching clinic schedules are solidified, the NBSA will be in full swing the rest of 2010 with hopes to expand internationally during 2011-12.
Free throw mastery is not acquired by, say, making 10-for-10. Rather, in order to achieve mastery certification through the NBSA , hundreds of shots at different baskets in different venues will be tabulated in every age division. In order to compete in the Open Division, where prize money will be awarded for the top 16 qualifiers, a shooter will have to qualify with 92%, or better, in their age division. (NBSA has determined that 92% is considered par as an elite shooting average.) A shooter will have to rank with over 96% accuracy in order to be called a master. The NBSA believes that in order to teach and coach free throws at the pro, college or high school levels, and to teach at their certified clinics, one must be a free throw shooting master.