Skip to main content

On this date: Dwight Howard broke Wilt Chamberlain's infamous record

Dwight Howard 39 free throws record Wilt Chamberlain

Dwight Howard 39 free throws record Wilt Chamberlain

On January 12, 2012, Golden State Warriors took the hack-a-Dwight strategy to the next level, prompting the 6-10 big to reach a historic free throw threshold and break Wilt Chamberlain's nearly 50-year-old NBA record.

Dwight's record-breaking 39 free throw attempts

New Warriors coach Mark Jackson instructed his players to intentionally foul Dwight all game long. With no true rim protector on the roster and no one who can even contain Howard one-on-one -- Andris Biedriņs was the Warriors starting center at the time -- Jackson tried to break D12's rhythm by constantly sending him to the free-throw line. The strategy killed the flow of the game, making it a hard one to watch.

"I'm looking at them like, 'We're not going to run a play. He's going to foul him," Orlando's head coach Stan Van Gundy said after the game. "What are we going to bother with diagraming a play? Make the free throw, play some defense."

The result was Howard going to the line in a record-setting fashion and converting only 21 of his 39 free throw attempts (53.9 %). That broke the previous regular-season record held by Wilt Chamberlain, who attempted 34 free throws on Feb. 22, 1962, against the St. Louis Hawks.

I just tried to be aggressive and get to the line. I didn't care if I missed 30. I was still going to go up there and shoot the next one with confidence.

Dwight Howard, ESPN

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Despite his struggles from the charity stripe, or due to it, Howard finished the game with 45 points and 23 rebounds, leading his team to a 117-109 road win against the Warriors -- Dwight also became the first player to put up at least 40 points and 20 rebounds in a regular-season game since Shaquille O'Neal.

Howard ties the record in his first return to Orlando

The next season, after his offseason trade to the Los Angeles Lakers, Dwight tied his record for free throw attempts. Ironically, it happened in his first return to Orlando, with his former team using the same tactic Dwight himself once described as "disrespectful."

Once again, the Magic tried to intentionally foul Dwight to throw him off his game. But once again, such a strategy backfired. Howard converted 25 of his record-tying 39 free throws -- 16-of-20 in the second half -- and helped his team secure a 106-97 victory on the road. He finished the game with 39 points along with 16 rebounds and 3 blocked shots.

"I wasn't nervous tonight. I was looking forward to playing here," Dwight said. "It was a hostile environment, but I think that was something that was good for me. For my progress as a player, I think I needed that tonight."

Despite enduring boos throughout the entire game, Dwight left the floor thankful for the support he received during his eight-year run in Orlando. Playing the way he played that night, facing his biggest on-court weakness and, by his standards, overachieving, only sweetened the experience.

Drake & Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry shares a funny story on Drake not knowing who Klay Thompson is

After the incident, Seth Curry accused his brother and the Golden State Warriors of cheating

LeBron James & Anthony Davis

JJ Redick explains why Anthony Davis isn’t the only reason for the Los Angeles Lakers' recent turnaround

While Anthony Davis has been great as of late, the real reason for the Lakers recent hot streak is because of their sudden ability to hit threes at a high level

Trae Young & Nate McMillan

Trae Young explains what happened behind his exchange with Nate McMillian that led him not to attend the last game for the Atlanta Hawks

Young acknowledged the incident between himself and McMillan, and it doesn't seem like the relationship between the player and coach is in a good spot right now

Shaquille O'Neal & Devean George

"Hell no, that's a lie, that's cap” - Devean George clears the air on sh*tty hazing story involving Shaquille O’Neal

Tyronn Lue once shared a hazing story involving Shaquille O'Neal's excrement and Devean George's shoe. But George called cap on the rumor

Shaquille O'Neal opens up about his biological father

How Shaquille O'Neal went from being sponsored by Reebok to becoming a part-owner in thirty years

Reebok CEO Todd Krinsky opens up about Shaq's rise to part-ownership of the company that sponsors him.

USA guard Kobe Bryant

"It was a breath of fresh air" — Kobe Bryant on his favorite part of playing in the Olympics

Many have been trying to imitate Kobe Bryant, but they're only mimicking one aspect of his game.