Free Throws

Steph Curry is the all-time best at that uncontested basketball shot taken 15 feet away. This season, he’s made 176 of 187 foul shots and is shooting an incredible 94.1% clip. Last January, he was en route to breaking Michael Williams’ record of consecutive free throws (97) but, in the game against Portland when Curry scored 62 points, he ONLY made 18 of 19 free throws. His one missed free throw ended his streak of consecutive foul shots at 80. Not bad, Steph! 

There is no debate that GSW #30 is the greatest shooter of all time. In the 3-point-shot department, he ranks No. 2 in the all-time list of 3-pointers made. He has 2,657 three-pointers and lacks only 317 to break Ray Allen’s record of 2,973. But here’s the amazing statistic: It took Allen 1,300 games to reach that record. Curry has played only 732 games.

Back to the Free Throw Line..  While Curry is the best, did you know that the worst free throw shooter ever is Wilt Chamberlain? Yes, no misprint there. In his 1958 to 1973 NBA career, the 7-foot-1 former Harlem Globetrotters center went to the free throw line 11,862 times. He converted only 5,805 for an embarrassing 51.1% average. 

“Wilt the Stilt” holds multiple NBA records such as most points scored in a game (100), most rebounds in a game (55), and the highest per game average (50.36 PPG in 1961-62) but his record of free throw misses also ranks at the top.

Shaquille O’Neal joins Wilt as one of history’s worst foul shooters. His career average is 52.7%. He was so bad at shooting from the free throw line that teams devised the “Hack a Shaq.” It’s a defensive ploy with a simple tactic: Foul Shaq! This was a successful gambit that was first used by Mavs coach Don Nelson and employed by many teams.

Dennis Rodman was one target. “The Worm” stood only 6-foot-7 but was the league’s best rebounder, leading the NBA in this area in seven seasons. (I got the chance to see Rodman when he played at the Mandaue Sports Complex and he was both fun and funny.) As a free throw shooter? Rodman wasn’t as bad as Wilt or Shaq but he shot only 58.4% in his 14-year career. 

This 2021-22 season, the worst-performing is Clint Capella with a 54.6% average. But here’s a question that’s mind-boggling: Why is Russell Westbrook (the 2017 NBA MVP awardee) the fifth-worst free throw shooter this season (60% average)? 

Same with the two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. He sits as the 7th worst free-throw shooter this season.

LeBron James’ numbers also puzzle me. He carries a dismal 69.8% average this 2021. That’s a dip from his 73.4% career average.

Which brings me to my Trivia Question: Who is the best free throw shooter so far this season, beating Steph Curry’s 94.1% and Chris Paul’s 96.2%?

The answer: His grandmother, Marcelina Tullao, hails from Bacolor, Pampanga. He played for Gilas Pilipinas and, with his stellar 2021 play, is the early favorite for the “Sixth Man of the Year” trophy. With a free throw percentage of 96.4%, his initials spell JC.

Photo: Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!

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