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Free-Throw record holder offers to help NBA stars

Aug 30, 2010, 6:53 PM EST

Free throws are the easiest shots in basketball, and yet teams lose game after game because they can’t make as many as they need to. Just earlier today, Brazil’s Marcelo Huertas cost his team a chance to tie the game in the final seconds because he couldn’t make both of his free throws. Great players like Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, and Dwight Howard have historically cost their team several points per game throughout their careers because of their poor free-throw shooting. And one man thinks he can change all of that. 

Recently, FanHouse’s Tim Potvak caught up with Ted St. Martin, who currently holds the world record for consecutive free throws made (5,221 in a row, set in 1996), and thinks he could make any player into a 90% free-throw shooter:
“It has always amazed me that such great athletes are such poor free-throw shooters,” he said. “They make so much money, but lose games because they can’t shoot free throws. I could take any one of them, and make him a better free-throw shooter, a 90 percent shooter…
…”Think of all the games in the NBA that have been lost by poor free-throw shooting. It’s something that’s easily fixable. It’s not rocket science. It’s simple stuff,” he said. “I guess, the NBA just thinks I’m too old, too short, to teach it. It still puzzles me.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard a great free throw shooter talk like this about great NBA players who have trouble from the line, specifically O’Neal and Howard. Here’s some video of Rick Barry explaining (PG-13 language included!) how he could get to Shaq to 70% if Shaq would shoot his free throws underhanded, as Barry did. I’ve heard a lecture from a man who overhauled Shaq’s free-throw stroke over the course of a summer and had him shooting in the 70% range during game-simulation practices, only to watch Shaq get nervous and revert to his old form before the season started. 

HoopsHype’s Dennis Hans has been writing articles about how to fix Dwight Howard’s free-throw stroke since 2008. I’ve personally seen Dave Hopla make all but three or four of the jump shots (he must have made at least 200-300 free throws, and didn’t miss one) he took during a two-hour lecture, and the Wizards didn’t all shoot 90% from the line when Hopla was an assistant coach for them. 
Even though most NBA players are capable of athletic feats that most free-throw masters can only dream of, the fact is that it would be just as hard for them to shoot 90% from the line as it would be for St. Martin to dunk. Their hands are bigger, their arms are longer, they can’t control their elbow, they don’t have the touch, and there’s the very real difference between the pressure of an NBA game and the pressure of a shooting clinic — as Shaq’s former free-throw coach found out, the pressure of being an NBA superstar can make a hall-of-famer like Shaq revert to what he knows instead of take a risk and try something new in front of millions of people. Few situations in professional sports are as nerve-racking as shooting free throws in an NBA game, and that does have an effect on players. 
I doubt that St. Martin could get any NBA player he worked with to be a 90% free throw shooter, but it is a bit surprising no NBA team has even given him a shot at working with their players. St. Martin says his system and coaching can get any player to 90% within two weeks, without having to change his style of shot. Isn’t that a risk worth taking, considering how valuable every point is in an NBA game? 

  1. mjc - Aug 30, 2010 at 7:03 PM

    Look at what Hoopla did with that entire Wiz team though…they were one of the best in the NBA. Also, it allowed a player like Brendan Haywood to be on the floor when the game was on the line (defenses could not implement hack-a-haywood strategy). Haywood’s FT% jumped from low 60s to a solid 70%

  2. mjc - Aug 30, 2010 at 7:04 PM

    Look at what Hoopla did with that entire Wiz team though…they were one of the best in the NBA. Also, it allowed a player like Brendan Haywood to be on the floor when the game was on the line (defenses could not implement hack-a-haywood strategy). Haywood’s FT% jumped from low 60s to a solid 70%

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