The Free Throw Hand Slap: Who Started It?

Jim Barnett can't stand it. The Warriors' television color commentator, and a career 79.7 percent free-throw shooter during his 11-year NBA career, said he has no idea how it started. But he has strong opinions about the person who began the widespread practice of tapping hands after free throws.

It happens after every first free throw -- a player leaves his spot on the line and slaps hands with a teammate. If the free throw was made, it's a congratulatory gesture. If the free throw was missed, it becomes a form of encouragement. A couple of seasons ago, Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry reworked his free-throw stroke. He told reporters that thorough evaluation of his stroke revealed he was including the handshake in his follow-through.

"Whoever started that," Barnett joked, "should face the firing squad.

"That doesn't happen in practice," Barnett continued. "In practice, you stay at the line and you make two in a row, five in a row, 10 in a row. You don't do all that hand-shaking business in practice. Why would you do it in the games?"

Shooting experts are unanimous about routine and repetition being an essential part of successful free-throw shooting. Warriors assistant coach Sydney Moncrief, who was brought on initially as a shooting coach, has been stressing to the Warriors to bring what they do in practice to the free-throw line in games.

The goal is to come almost robotic at the line, to knock down free throws out of habit and negate other factors such as pressure and fatigue.

The word obviously is out, as some have taken the routine to a new level. Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas has a famous pre-free-throw routine: He whips the ball around his body three times, spins it in his hands once and follows with two dribbles.

Some routines are exaggerations of tips, such as Dallas swingman Jerry Stackhouse's full-on squat at the line and Chicago guard Ben Gordon's follow-through rehearsal. Some border on showmanship, such as Houston guard Steve Francis rubbing a tattoo or New Jersey Nets guard Jason Kidd saying hello to his kids by rubbing the side of his face before blowing a kiss to his wife.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hate it too. Why does a player need encouragement or validation from his teammates following a free throw?

The first time I remember seeing it was from Dennis Rodman while he was with the Bulls in the mid- to late-nineties. He was the only player who would consistently slap hands with whomever was at the line (or so I recall), and over the course of 3 or 4 seasons it just spread like a cancer

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