What is a Free Throw in Basketball?

what is a free throw in basketball

Free throws are uncontested shots that a player takes from behind the free-throw line. Usually, players can take free throws after another player commits a foul against them. Players take between one and three free throws at a given time. Here is what you need to know about free throws during an NBA game.


Why is it Called a Free Throw?

why is it called a free throw

An offensive player receives a free throw after being fouled by a player on the other team. The player will then go to the free-throw line to shoot between one and three free throws depending on the severity of the foul. Each successful basket scored by the free throw shooter is worth one point.


While the free throw is taking place, both teams will usually line up on either side of the free-throw lane so they can recover a rebound if they miss a shot. This position is perfect for starting an offensive drive, recovering a missed shot, and getting an offensive layup.


Since free throws follow fouls, they’re also foul shots. The line that a person shoots from is also often called the foul line. These terms are interchangeable when referring to extra shots during a game.


What Types of Free Throws are There?

what type of free throw are there

The number of free throws a shooter gets usually depends on where on the court they were fouled. If a player was fouled within the three-point line, the referee gives them two free throws. If they’re fouled beyond the three-point line, the official awards them three free throws.


A player can also shoot free throws if the opposing team is in the foul bonus. The foul bonus means the team has exceeded the number of fouls they can make in a specific time frame. Learn what does a bonus mean in basketball to understand more about the rules.


Which Player is the Best at Free Throw Shooting?

The basketball player with the best career free throw percentage is Steph Curry, with a 90.69% average. Steve Nash is second in the ranking, with 90.49%. Mark Price is number three with a 90.39% mark.


Do All-Star Players Make Great Free Throw Shooters?

Do All-Star Players Make Great Free Throw Shooters

Some of the best NBA players in basketball are some of the worst free-throw shooters. For example, Shaquille O’Neal had one of the worst free-throw percentages, with 52.7% success. DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond have worse scores, which means they miss most of the free throws they take.


These players all played or play center for their respective teams and are all well over 6’10”. That height is an essential factor because when they throw the basketball from the top of the free-throw lane, they can’t get the proper arc on the ball. That means they’re likely to hit the backboard or the front of the rim when they make a free throw attempt.


How Much Time Do you Have to Take a Free Throw Shot?

How Much Time Do you Have to Take a Free Throw Shot

NBA rule number 9 dictates that free throws must take place within 10 seconds. If a player takes too long, the scoring opportunity is forfeit, and the opposing team inbounds the ball for a new offensive drive. The Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard became relatively well known for free throw time violations during their career.


The 50-40-90 Club

Free throw shooters with better than 90% accuracy may be part of the 50-40-90 Club, a statistic that grades the most accurate basketball shooters in professional leagues. Members of the 50-40-90 Club have a 50% field goal percentage, a 40% three-point field goal percentage, and a 90% basketball free throw percentage. Some of the best NBA/WNBA shooters make this 50-40-90 Club.


Induction into this club has only been possible since introducing three-pointers during the 1979-1980 season. Steve Nash and Larry Bird are the only NBA players who have had multiple 50-40-90 seasons. Kyrie Irving is the most recent player to join the Club, as he earned his spot during the 2020-2021 season. The only WNBA player accurate enough in the act of shooting to join is Elena Delle Donne.


List of Players in the 50-40-90 Club

list of players in the 50-40-90 club

The 50-40-90 Club is an exclusive club in basketball. Here is the list of NBA players in the 50-40-90 club as of October 2021 in chronological order from the most recent. As a note, Elena Delle Donne is the only WNBA player to make this list, and it took place in 2019.


  • Kylie Irving: 2020-2021
  • Stephen Curry: 2015-2016
  • Kevin Durrant: 2012-2013
  • Dirk Nowitzki: 2006-2007


  • Steve Nash: 2005-2010 (four times)
  • Reggie Miller: 1993-1994
  • Mark Price: 1988-1989
  • Larry Bird: 1986-1987-1988 (twice)


Conclusion – What is a Free Throw in Basketball

In summary, a free throw in basketball is an extra shot by a player after a defensive foul. These shots occur from the free-throw line and occur without interference from another player. The range of free-throw varies between one and three shots.


However, just because these shots are uncontested doesn’t mean they’re easy for many players. Some of the greatest basketball players of all time have struggled with consistent free-throw shooting, which makes this an exciting part of any game. Also, home fans will try their best to distract the opposing team from shooting, which adds to the pressure of these uncontested shots during a game.


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