Larry Bird is one of the greatest shooters of all time, and he is very critical of players who cannot consistently make free throws since it’s the easiest shot in basketball. Bird was known as a reliable shooter throughout his career, especially from the charity stripe, and believes players should regularly put more effort into making them.
Bird is frustrated with players that can’t make free throws
There are so many great shooters in the NBA nowadays, and if you are not a reliable shooter, you will find a hard time finding a spot on any roster. Obviously, if you are superior in some other areas, of course, you will land a place on an NBA roster. Still, shooting has become an instrumental part of being a valuable player that will get solid minutes in the rotation. Larry Bird was one of the premier shooters and the first player that fully utilized the three-point shot that is essential in the game today.
Despite all of that, numerous great players in the league today are struggling to make the easiest shot in the game, which is the free-throw shot. Players like Ben Simmons, Giannis, and a few others have problems making those shots consistently, which eventually hurts their team. Bird is highly critical of players who don’t practice free throws and thinks many games are lost because players have a lenient approach when going to the free-throw line.
One thing I’ve never really understood since I began playing basketball is why more players don’t make an effort to become reliable free throw shooters. It just takes practice and hard work. And concentration. Some guys seem to take missing free throws for granted. They’ll say, I’ll take my chances when I get there. Or I don’t get fouled much, so why worry about it? I can’t understand that type of thinking. It’s an easy two points, and a lot of games come down to what happens at the free-throw line.Larry Bird, via Larry Bird Drive: The Stort of my life
Bird had a unique approach at the free-throw line
Bird was an exceptional free throw shooter, and for his career, he shot 89 percent from the charity stripe. His best season shooting free throws came during the 1989/90 campaign when his percentage was at 93 percent. His approach to those shots was also pretty remarkable because, in his mind, the ball shouldn’t even touch the rim.
When I go to the line, I am always thinking ‘All Net’. No rim or anything else, just all net. When I don’t think that and I get too cocky and just walk up there I’m likely to miss and every miss troubles me.Larry Bird, via Larry Bird Drive: The Stort of my life
Last season, Damian Lillard and Chris Paul led the league in free throw percentage at 93 percent, which is exceptional; however, a few great players continually struggle from the free-throw line. The league as a whole averaged around 77 percent, which is not bad, but it’s definitely not great. Like we mentioned before, it’s the easiest shot in the game and often one that decides whether your team will win or lose.
Many players are so focused on other elements of the game that they often forget the importance of being a great free throw shooter and what it means in the grand scheme of things. Just like Bird said, it takes practice, focus, and the actual motivation to be a great free-throw shooter, which is something players take too likely in today’s NBA.