Rick Barry popularized the underhanded free throw in the 60’s and 70’s and it caused him to have a career 89% free throw percentage. Now, Barry’s son is bringing back the shot his father perfected to make himself a better player.
In a New York Times profile, Florida Gators guard Canyon Barry talked about how he adopted his father’s shot and improved his game. Underhanded free throws are a better way to make free throws but there’s a shallow reason nobody has regularly done this since Rick. And Canyon knows all too well.
Underhanded free throws are seen as “uncool.” Also known as the “granny shot,” the underhand free throw has largely been away from the NBA since Rick retired in 1980. Rick said that when he used it, it was a technique females did and was seen as something that a man didn’t do. It’s one of those shots where nobody will say anything if you make it, but get ridiculed from everyone at the first miss.
But after seeing Rockets rookie Chinanu Onukau drain two underhand free throws, it gave Canyon a renewed sense to keep shooting underhanded.
After being a bit uncomfortable, Canyon slowly adjusted and have gone from a 72% free throw percentage to 89% this season at Florida.
This leads to a rather stupid question. If underhanded free throws work so much better than the conventional free throw, why is it ignored by even the worst free throw shooters?
Yes, it’s not the most “manly” thing to do and it looks embarrassing but some of the free throw shooting in the NBA is embarrassing. It’s literally an uncontested shot from the same distance every time, that can be practiced on for decades and some professionals making tens of millions per year cannot make half of those shots.
Rick mentioned such great basketball players like DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard and Andre Drummond as those who could be better players from shooting underhand. Jordan is a career 43% free throw shooter who makes $21 million this season. Dwight Howard is a 56.7% free throw shooter who makes $23 million. Andre Drummond is a 38.7% free throw shooter who makes $22 million. Making that much and not doing something that helps you become a better and more successful player is more embarrassing than the appearance of shooting underhand.
The Barry’s have shown that underhand free throws could make someone a better player. That doesn’t mean everyone should convert to underhand free throws, there are plenty of NBA players who make a high percentage of free throws. But if someone is shooting 50%, 60%, why not at least try it and worst case scenario, average a few more points per game.