The only glimpse into LeBron s humanity on the basketball court happens when he steps 15 feet from the basket. No one’s allowed to bother him (or distract him). Just him and his free throw.
One of the things that annoyed Kyrie in Cleveland was the fact that LeBron would take all free throws that were a result of technical fouls. LeBron was at 71,15% free throws made during his second stint with Cleveland. Kyrie’s average from the free throw line over his time with LeBron? 88,5%. Btw, Korver was also on that team (around 90% from the charity stripe).
Some of it is confidence, some of it is stat padding. Don’t think all the superstars don’t compare themselves with the history books and use every chance to up their point averages. With LeBron, it is very likely most of it was taking any opportunity to find a rhythm for his free throws. He knows the ball will be in his hands in clutch situations, so he needs to be ready for the charity stripe.
Any shooting coach will tell you free throws are all about muscle memory. Find a routine and repeat it, so it becomes like breathing. You don’t even think about it; you do it. A little over a year ago Tom Haberstroh wrote a piece for ESPN where he found some interesting facts:
All in all, James employed 18 distinct free throw variations with countless combinations throughout the season. In November, James altered his routine at least 21 different times, cycling through various adjustments on the fly. During his worst month, when he converted just 62 percent in March, he changed his routine in every single game. The only constant was change.
LeBron himself spoke on this more than once and said it’s mostly mental. Funny how a man who had so many spectacular shots in clutch situations somehow just can’t settle down on free throws. Last night he missed free throws at the end of the game but luckily managed to get a put-back to seal the win. After the game this is what he had to say about his free throws:
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