Shooting Free Throws

I enjoy watching basketball games. I became interested in the games at UC Santa Barbara, where I could get free student tickets. The Gauchos had a reputation for having ravenous fans, and I was happy to come and help out with that reputation.

I took an early interest in free throws. Back then I was interested in trying to distract the players, joining forces with Bob Burnell to make large hypnotic spinning disks. We sat behind a backboard and got a great reputation attempting to foil the free throws of the visiting team.

Now I live in Sacramento, I'm a Kings fan.

Shooting free throws looks easy. They are the cause of much agony among basketball spectators:

"Chris Webber gets paid $13 million a year, he should make 90% of his free throws"

"Of course Doug Christie makes 87% of them, making that ball go into the basket is his primary goal in life"

And, "We lost the game because of missed free throws".

I've only played basketball about 10 times, but I was anxious to see what percentage of free throws a normal person can make. 

I brought a ball out to the playground at Bowling Green Elementary in Sacramento and shot 100 free throws.

I made 22 baskets - 22%.

The average NBA player shoots 75%, the top 3 can shoot 90% from the line.

It is important to keep in mind that shooting free throws during a game is a different affair altogether. The players are halted in the middle of an extremely rigorous contest. Their heart and lungs are pounding.

I like to compare basketball free throws to the Biathlon, where competitors stop to shoot targets after skiing. Tom Wharton wrote for the Salt Lake Tribune: "how biathletes can calm down enough after skiing hard in order to hit a tiny target 50 meters away is beyond comprehension"

Satisfied with my results, I started bragging about my devastating skillz at the line.


Mark and Tom, eager to beat my "regular guy" percentage, agreed to participate in additional trials.

We headed out to Sutter Middle School and picked out a court.

Antonia and Noah accompanied us, keeping score.

After 50 shots each, Tom had the highest number of goals: 17.  I hit 14 out of 50 and Mark hit ten.

Shooting Percentage
Tom Rob Mark
34% 28% 20%
We were going to shoot a hundred shots each, but we got tired of climbing over the fence to fetch the ball.

At the end of the contest, Tom had proven himself the best shooter, but Mark wasn't convinced. He bet $10 that Tom couldn't make a shot from the half-court line. 

Tom backed up and banked the shot in. 

While I was tallying the results Antonia grabbed the ball and started shooting from the line. I wasn't keeping careful record, but she was nailing her free throws: Bam, Bam, Bam. I looked up long enough to see her hit six in a row.

It is a good thing I wasn't counting her shots, she would have put us to shame!




Next I need to find out what my dunking percentage is.


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