Davis Bertans has said it – “shooters are born, not made.” The only areas your improvement isn’t naturally limited are spot-up shots and free throws. For the latter, José Calderón’s 08-09 season with Toronto is the level of excellence you want to reach.
It’s the year Spanish point-guard set the second-longest streak for consecutive free throws made with 87, behind only Michael Williams, whose record of 97 made free throws in a row is yet to be broken.
And while Calderón did come up short in the consecutive free throws department, efficiency-wise, his 08-09 NBA campaign is the best the league has ever seen. José converted 151 of 154 of his attempts from the charity stripe, setting the record for best free throw percentage in a season with .981.
Free throws should be the easiest one. It’s always the same; you’re not moving, there’s no defense, it’s just you. That’s when mentally, you start getting into everything. I was able to disconnect from everything every time I was stepping on that line.José Calderón
José wasn’t a high-volume free throw shooter. He only shot 2.3 of those per game but was able to convert them at the historical rate. Some would say that such a low number of attempts made it easier for him to shoot such a high percentage, but Calderón himself would argue otherwise.
Some people say that’s easier, but I think it’s even more complicated at the end of the day. Some days, I only got like one or two free throws, and then maybe went two games without free throws. So I don’t know if that’s easier or not than just shooting six or seven free throws every day when you know you’re going to the line.José Calderón
It’s one of those instances where quantity correlates with quality. If you are in the right place mentally, shooting free throws becomes a rhythm thing. And having few-game stretches without going to the line can make you go off the rails. Thus José’s record becomes even more impressive.
Especially with all the outside noise that surrounded his quests for NBA record books. That’s when the “disconnecting from everything” part comes to play.
Guys were betting against me, like ‘Hey, I just bet $100 you’re going to get to 100.‘ I remember our last game, I went to the line, and even my coaches were like ‘Don’t let them foul you, you already have the record.‘ But I was just playing basketball. So, it was fun – something it’ll be there forever.José Calderón
As I said, when working on your free throws, use Calderón’s 08-09 season as the bar. He’s the guy behind the most extraordinary year of free-throw shooting the NBA has ever seen.