Free Throw

The myth of lost fundamentals

You're going to hear it. How do I know? Because I've been watching basketball for a long time and I hear it every year. Fundamentals. FUN-DA-MEN-TALS. More importantly, the loss thereof. When announcers talk about these fargone fundamentals, they do so with a reverence typically reserved for topics like the Bethany beyond the Jordan.

Fans are even worse. They spend more time complaining about the loss of fundamentals than they do bitching about kids rushing the court.

The problem with this premise is that those espousing it, are, for the most part, full of it. They lament the lost fundamentals in today's game. And here, they have a bit of a point. There are an awful lot of players who make really basic mistakes. But – like the baby boomers who long for the purity of their youth – they've completely forgotten that the game has never been pure. There's always been a ton of players getting by on superior physical gifts and little else.

They forget that Hoosiers was a movie.

The most fundamental thing that happens on a basketball court is the free throw. Whether it's 1939 and my grandfather is shooting one for Army, or it's 2013 and Andrew Wiggins is shooting one for Kansas, the basket is still 10' high, and 15' feet away, and Rogner/Wiggins is completely undefended. The only way you get better at free throw shooting is to put in your time at the gym, have coaches help you develop a good form, and practice, practice, practice.

Last year college basketball players made 69.4% of their free throws. A decade ago it was 68.8%. Fifty years ago, it was 68.7%. In fact, it's remained remarkably consistent since the 1950s (when the and-1 rule was implemented), and no matter what the announcers tell you next year, it's safe to assume that free throw shooting will remain consistent in the forseeable future.