On this date: Dwight Howard broke Wilt Chamberlain’s infamous record
39 Free Throw Attempts

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

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

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.