Free throws are anything but free these days

February 20, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI |
  • Bob Parasiliti
Bob Parasiliti

The best things in life are free … or so they say.

Even free things cost something.

Most free samples are provided just to get you to buy the product.

A free lunch usually has a price somewhere down the line. Trust me.

You pay to drive on some freeways.

It’s no wonder people are skeptical when the word “free” is mentioned.

It carries over to basketball, too. When it comes to free throws, very few are accepted graciously.

Players have to pay twice to get the opportunity to step to a line, 15 feet away from the basket, for a chance to score without someone trying to prevent it.

The nice purple bruise can be a badge of courage, but collecting the point takes work.

It’s amazing to see how many foul shots are missed during games. In some cases, players and referees should be wearing bulletproof vests. There have been times this season when the University of Maryland should have used buckshot to hit the target.

Sometime during the evolution of basketball, the art of free throw shooting was lost. It seems that television, the 3-point arc, motion offenses, dunks and long shots override fundamental standards.

When was the last time you saw an ESPN highlight or a YouTube video of someone hitting a free throw?

You often hear “Oooohs” for dunks and “Ahhhhs” for 3-pointers. For free throws? Golf clap.

That could get you on the cover of SI someday. Chicks may dig the long ball, but free throws … not so much.

Truth be told, free throw shooting is one of basketball’s Big Three factors for victory. No matter how many points a team scores, coaches often say the differences in a game are rebounding, defense and free throw shooting. The first two help prevent the opponent from scoring, while free throws allow teams to score without time leaving the clock.

Why do you think they call them “free throws?”

During the regular season, offenses are showcased, but in the playoffs, the Big Three wins championships.

Back in the day when shorts were three inches above the knee and 2-3 was a defense (or Michael Jordan), coaches wanted their teams to shoot between 75 percent (3 of 4) and 80 percent (4 of 5) from the free throw line. They are settling for 66-70 percent now.

And consumers complain about the lack of quality in products?

Free throw shooting is an act of patience, routine and concentration. Basically, it is a five-part process: Set your feet, take a relaxing breath, focus on the rim, bend the knees while shooting and follow through.

It needs to be practiced to be perfected. Many of today’s players shoot better with a joystick than a basketball. Most of the time, you can predict if a foul shooter will be successful just by watching if they look at the rim, bend their knees or follow through. If one is off, it changes the arc of the ball.

Lately, stepping up to the foul line is like scoring a touchdown. It is more about self accomplishment and the choreographed dance than the game-changing play for the team. Sweet Georgia Brown should be played while some guys prepare to shoot.

All that work, just to miss. And in the end, it could be the difference in the game.

The importance of free throws is basketball’s Great Debate subject. In a way, free throws are like freedom. We’ve worked hard to earn both and should take full advantage of them.

But free throws are like debate arguments.

The points aren’t always well taken.

Bob Parasiliti is a Herald-Mail sports writer. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by e-mail at

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