Free Throw: 7 Steps to Success at the Free Throw Line

Free Throw: 7 Steps to Success at the Free Throw Line

by Tom Amberry


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On November 15, 1993, a white-haired, 72-year-old gentleman named Dr. Amberry stepped up to the free throw line and into the Guinness Book of World Records by sinking 2,750 shots in a row. He ended his 12-hour streak without a miss, stopping only because they had to close the gym for the night.

In Free Throw, he reveals his secrets. Beginning with the proper mechanics of the shot, he then explains the importance of the mental game and shares his techniques to help players stay on target even while under pressure. Combining these mental and physical elements, he presents a unique and straightforward 7-step method that teaches readers how to become a 90% free throw shooter.

The free throw is the Achilles heel of the basketball player -- many players are great from the floor but lousy at the line. Free Throw is the only book to address this important skill. Clearly written, with principles that are easy to put into practice, it is an indispensable manual for all basketball players and coaches.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062734341
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/13/1996
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 239,750
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.33(d)

About the Author

Dr. Tom Amberry was a podiatrist for 40 years, publishing many articles about various aspects of his profession. On November 15, 1993, following his retirement, Dr. Amberry shot his way into The Guinness Book of Records by sinking 2,750 free throws in a row. Since then he has become internationally known as, in the words of one announcer, "the best free throw shooter ever to touch a basketball." Dr. Amberry travels constantly, teaches shooting clinics and makes frequent radio and TV appearances. He has been featured on NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, ESPN, Dateling, Day One, The Late Show with David Letterman, NBA Inside Stuff, and ABCs World News Tonight. On his college basketball team, Tom Amberry was twice the nation's high scorer. He was an All-American two years in a row, turning down a two-year, no-cut contract with the Lakers to pursue a career in medicine.

Read an Excerpt

A Free Throw Is a Gift

If you're going to play at a pro level, you're going to have to take it strong to the hole. If you take it strong to the hole you're going to get fouled. If you get fouled you have to make your free throws.

College Player,

Long Beach, California

You get the breakaway pass and you're gone, flying down the court, driving to the hoop. Your eye's on the rim, looking for that game-winning layup.

And then it happens.

You're fouled. Hacked in the act. Sent to the line for two free throws with seconds on the clock and your team trailing by one.

Make one and you tie. Two and you win.

You go to the line. You're winded. Tired. Still mad about the foul. Your teammates' eyes are on you, begging you to make it. The other team is taunting you. Throw up a brick, man. Air ball. Choke! Choke! Choke!

The ref hands you the ball. The crowd behind the basket is going nuts.

Two shots stand between victory and defeat. You've made a million free throws in practice. They seem so easy. Just put it up there and watch it fall through the net. But now the rim looks like it's a mile away. The basket is the size of a shot glass. You can't seem to catch your breath. The noise around you is incredible.

You bounce the ball, spin it, look up at the basket, and—

Wait a second! Hold everything! We don't want to start with a negative scenario. You've seen that too many times before. Or, worse yet, maybe it's happened to you.

Instead, I'm going to describe what will happen after you read this book and apply—and practice—my seven steps for free throw shooting success.

What Your FutureHolds

When you're fouled, your first thought is, No problem. Easy two points.

You shake off your anger as you walk to the stripe. Then you start your ritual, the ritual you will learn in this book. The seven steps are so ingrained you do them automatically. You square up, bounce the ball three times, and you feel your focus and concentration beginning to sharpen. The noise of the crowd fades. Muscle memory takes over. Your head is clear. You're confident. You shoot and, while the ball's still in the air, you know it's nothin' but net.

Score tied.

Your confidence is strong now. You get the ball again, follow the same ritual. Up and in. You won the game for yourself and your team.

Quit dreaming, you say. Reality is different. Free throws are easy in practice—tough under game pressure. That's just the nature of the beast. And there's nothing you can do about it.

Wrong. The mechanics of free throw shooting can be learned. Combine proper mechanics with focus and concentration and you will be astounded at what you can achieve. I guarantee you will improve far beyond your preconceptions. How much? If you apply what I will teach you, and shoot 100 free throws at every practice, you can be 90 percent from the line.

But, you say, 90 percent is more than most pros shoot. The NCAA average in recent years has only been about 66 percent—and it gets worse every season. Then how can I make such an outrageous promise?

I guess you could say I'm coming from a different perspective. I believe the poor free throw shooting in the NBA and NCAA is the result of two things: poor mechanics and an inability of the players to control their mental game.

Let me put this in broader terms. I am firmly convinced that the only thing limiting you is yourself. That's right. At the age of seventy-three, looking back on a life that included high school and college basketball and a career in medicine, I've come to this conclusion: In everything we do, whether in sports or business or in trying to achieve a life goal, we are more limited by our beliefs than our ability. The obstacles to success exist more in your mind than in the physical world. Nowhere is that simple statement more true than when you stand on the free throw line.

You could almost say that a free throw is a metaphor. It represents all those things in life that are more difficult than they appear. In fact, the harder you try, the more elusive success becomes. Some react by giving up and shying away. Others bear down and eventually succeed. And their success is greater for their struggle.

Be ACompletePlayer

Other sports have situations similar to a free throw in basketball. In football it's a field goal for three points to win the game. In golf it's a four-foot putt on the eighteenth green. In soccer they call them penalty kicks. These clutch plays seem easy in practice yet are difficult under game pressure.

But free throws are unique in one way: the basket is always 10 feet above the boards and you always stand 15 feet from the hoop. There is nothing between you and the basket. No rushing offense, no breaking curve ball, no spike mark to deflect your putt, no goalie to make a miraculous save.

When you shoot a free throw the only thing between you and the basket is yourself. You stand alone on that line with just your muscles, your heart, and your beliefs. If you miss you get all the blame. If you make it you deserve all the glory.

Sink a free throw and you show yourself, your teammates, and the other team that you are mentally strong. You can take the pressure. Yes, you can dribble and pass and dunk. But unlike so many players these days, you can also make your free throws. It shows everyone your game is complete.

Okay, you're convinced. But what can you do? Free throws are a grind. And they never go away. It feels better practicing three-pointers, slam dunks, and jumpers. That may be true, but remember, a champion is someone who excels at things that others find boring and repetitive.

Furthermore, if you want to boost your scoring, the free throw line is the best place to add extra points. And, as I'll tell you later, improving your free throws will improve your three-point accuracy, develop your "shooter's touch," and boost your total game confidence.

Starting today, change your attitude toward free throws. Think of it this way: A free throw is a gift. You were on your way to the basket with a good chance to make a basket or get an assist. The other team illegally took away your chance to score. Now it's payback time. Seize this chance to be in complete control—the basket's wide open, no one in your face. Get the gift that's yours.

Free Throws Win Games

Ask any coach how important free throws are and you're apt to get this response: "Free throws win games." UCLA Coach Jim Harrick said he estimates the importance of free throws to be 23 percent of a regular season game and 33 percent of a championship game. He added, "If you can't shoot free throws, you're a hindrance to your team."

Free throws contribute points throughout the game. But those points become more precious as time runs out. The players become desperate in the final seconds of the game. Rather than let the best shooters fire away, they are fouled and forced to shoot from the charity stripe. Furthermore, free throws can start streaks, shift the momentum, and build confidence.

Some of the greatest players are notoriously bad at free throws. In a 1995 playoff game, Shaquille O'Neal, the league's highest-paid player, went 0 for 8 in free throws. Nick Anderson missed four in a row in the final seconds during the same series. This prompted Sports Illustrated to write: "Mama always said there are two great imperatives in life: Eat your carrots and make your free throws. Failure to do the latter, as this season's NBA playoffs have made clear, usually assures defeat."

If the other team finds you can't shoot from the line, you'll be there all night. They won't let you shoot from the floor. If you prove you are strong at the line, they will have to let you shoot. Knowing this will improve your follow-through and release. You know you won't get hacked by some burly point guard as you launch a field goal or get stuffed as you take an inside jumper.

Some of the college players I've coached tell me they try to draw fouls in the beginning of the game. If they can drill a couple of free throws, it builds their confidence and helps them find their rhythm and touch. They take that confidence back into the game and hit more baskets from the floor.

If you need numbers to be convinced, consider this: The national average for free throw shooting in the NCAA is only about 66 percent. A team gets about 700 free throw attempts in a 32-game season. If the players are only average, they will score 462 points. If they improve to my recommended figure of 90 percent accuracy, they will get an additional 168 points. Spread that over the season and that's five extra points per game.

Now think back. How many games did you lose last year by five or less? More free throws each game could have turned those losses into victories. It could have transformed a losing season into a winning season. That's a huge payoff for a little extra practice each day.

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