Rick Barry Broke Free-Throw Records Shooting Underhand

Sometimes, the only way to beat the competition is to change the game entirely. In a way, that's what Rick Barry did. The 6'7" NBA player was a force to be reckoned with, scoring more than 25,000 points and earning a spot on 12 All-Star teams in his professional basketball career. But where he really stood out was at the free-throw line: he maintained a 90% free-throw accuracy throughout his career, which was the best in NBA history back in 1980. (He has since been surpassed by six NBA players, but even Steve Nash, who has the highest free-throw percentage in history, only shot a 90.43%.) During the 1978–79 season, Barry only missed nine free-throws. And he did it all by throwing granny-style.

As strange as it looks, granny-style, or underhanded, shooting has actually proven to be a very accurate free-throw style. Nevertheless, players rarely resort to it. Rick Barry famously helped Wilt Chamberlain improve his disastrous free-throw record during the 1961–62 season with his unusual scoring style. By using the granny shot, Chamberlain sank a career-best 61% of free-throws that season, and even made 28 of 32 free throws in one game. But the next season, he stopped, and his free-throw record dropped accordingly. According to Malcolm Gladwell, he later admitted that he "felt like a sissy" when shooting underhand. It just goes to show that you can do amazing things if you don't care about what others think. Learn more about sports legends in the videos below.

An Underhand Legacy

Rick Barry's son is following in his father's footsteps. Watch Barry explain how to do his legendary underhand throw.

Wilt Chamberlain's Free Throws

Why was Chamberlain such a lousy free-throw shooter?

The Minor Tweak That Saved Basketball

All it took was putting 24 seconds on the clock.

Written by Curiosity Staff November 15, 2016

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