The story goes back to 1971, but is still alive today. In 1971, Rick Barry, a professional NBA (National Basketball Association) basketball player in the USA began to throw his Free Throws* underarm instead of the orthodox overarm throw. As a result, his Free Throw success rate increased until eventually he led the NBA in free throw percentage for the last three seasons of his career, topping out at 94.7 in 1978-79. The NBA average this season is 76.6 percent.
Despite Barry’s huge success only other two players have adopted this technique in the NBA; Chinanu Onuaku, a Nigerian player, and Canyon Barry, Rick Barry’s son, who has an 88% Free Throw average (beating all but 12 NBA players).
In America, the technique is known an ‘under-hand’ throw or a ‘granny throw’, which gives a clue as to why other players have not adopted this more successful technique. Players would rather carry on doing what they and almost everyone else has done over many decades than switch than become more successful. They are more afraid of being ridiculed for throwing ‘like a granny’ than sticking to ‘more manly’ overarm technique and being less successful. So peer pressure trumps logic every time, unless you are a maverick like Rick Barry. For more on this story click here
*A Free Throw is an unopposed attempt to score points by shooting from behind the free throw line. Free throws are generally awarded after a foul on a player by the opposing team. Each successful free throw is worth one point.