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Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Free Throws* Who's the best foul-shooter? Who's the worst? Who's the weirdest? Does practice help? Does talking to the ball help? And why is something that looks so easy so damned hard? *But Were Afraid to Ask Sh

It is an ordinary night in the middle of the NBA season. There
are nine games, several of which will conclude thrillingly. In
Indianapolis, the Pacers are hosting the Wizards, and the clock
is evaporating. The game is tied at 82. The house is on its
feet. With 36.5 seconds left, Indiana's Reggie Miller nails a
three-pointer. Washington comes back with a bucket. The final
few seconds are a blur of clawing players and screaming coaches.
Finally, the Pacers win 85-84. A television crew sets up quickly
on the floor, and Miller explains his heroic shot, which will be
replayed on highlight shows the rest of the night. Indiana coach
Larry Bird takes off his tie and retreats to his office. He
knows a thing or two about games decided at the buzzer. He knows
exactly where this one was won, when it was won: at the free
throw line, late in the second quarter, when no one was paying
particular attention.

Bird, with his genius for simplicity, has a four-word suggestion
for any playoff-bound team seeking to improve: Make more free
throws. "Free throws are the key to all games," Bird says. Get
to the line often; make a high percentage; win fabulous prizes.
In the playoffs that credo is even more true.

Four foul shots turned around that garden-variety
Indiana-Washington game on Jan. 27. Late in the second quarter
the Pacers' pace was laggardly, and the Wizards led by three. In
the final minute of the half, Miller--celebrated for his
three-pointers, less well-known as one of the best foul shooters
ever--tossed in two sweet ones from the line, the balls dropping
like snowflakes on a still night. (The free throw is always
unremarkable, until it is examined.) On Indiana's next
possession Rik Smits, the Pacers center, went to the line for a
one-on-one. He converted both. Everyone knows that Smits stands
7'4", a very impressive height. But what also makes him critical
to Indiana's success is that he makes over three quarters of his
free throws. Instead of trailing at the half--at home, against a
.500 team, after three days' rest--Indiana, then a .700 club,
was ahead. Those foul shots, Bird said later, made all the
difference.

Through Saturday the Pacers ranked 15th in the NBA in number of
free throws attempted (1,931), seventh in percentage made (.761)
and 13th in total points made from the line (1,470). They also
had the league's seventh-best record. Bird, who was a career
.886 free throw shooter in the NBA, has created a team in his
own image. Given his success as a player and as a rookie coach,
it's odd that so few other teams see the wisdom in his way.

Or maybe it's not so odd. For there's nothing in basketball that
generates as many conflicting theories and shooting styles and
mental approaches as foul shooting does. Practicing makes you
either better or worse, depending on which player you ask.
Making a high percentage of free throws is either critical or
irrelevant to a team's success, depending on which coach you
ask. (One who might have a definitive answer is Bernie
Bickerstaff, coach of the Wizards, who through Saturday were
26th in the NBA from the line, with a .694 percentage. Had
Washington merely achieved this season's league
average--.737--in its losses, five of them probably would have
turned into victories. Instead of being 37-37 and scrambling to
make the playoffs, the Wizards would have been 42-32 and all but
in.) The ability to make free throws is the province of either
the mind or the body--nobody's sure which. Free throw shooting
today is either better or worse than it has ever been.

It's bizarre that there's no agreement on all this, because the
free throw is about the only immutable thing in basketball: The
shooter is 15 feet from the backboard, he has 10 seconds to
shoot, there's no opposing hand in his face. You might think
that by now foul shooting would have evolved into a science,
that every player good enough to reach the NBA would make eight
of 10 from the line. Not a chance. In Florida there is a former
dairy farmer, Ted St. Martin, who once made 2,036 straight free
throws. He believes he can turn around any NBA player. The
players will tell you otherwise. "I can make them in an empty
gym," says Dale Davis, a Pacers forward who, despite Bird's best
efforts, through Saturday was making free throws at a .436 pace,
.307 below the league average. "The problem is the games."

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY HEINZ KLUETMEIER STATE OF THE ARC When it comes to free throws, Price is almost always right on target. [Time-lapse photograph of Mark Price shooting free throw]

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY GARY LOCKE CALVIN MURPHY'S ALLTIME FREE THROW TEAM Clockwise, from top Larry Bird, .886 career Mark Price, .905 career (through Sat.) Calvin Murphy, .892 career Rick Barry, .900 career Bill Sharman, .883 career [Drawing of Larry Bird, Mark Price, Calvin Murphy, Rick Barry, and Bill Sharman]

B/W PHOTO: UPI/CORBIS-BETTMANN [Wilt Chamberlain shooting underhanded free throw]

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY MICHAEL WITTE [Drawing of Dave Gambee shooting underhanded free throw]

COLOR PHOTO: MARC NORBERG [Michael Williams]

COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER FREE THROW FETISHISTS Clockwise from top left: Smith touching his tattoo, Mourning taking his time, Malone talking to leather, Jackson calling his shot, Hornacek greeting the kids. [Steve Smith in game]

COLOR PHOTO: ROCKY WIDNER [See caption above--Alonzo Mourning in game]

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH [See caption above--Karl Malone in game]

COLOR PHOTO: ROCKY WIDNER [See caption above--Mark Jackson in game]

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH [See caption above--Jeff Hornacek in game]

COLOR PHOTO: CHRIS USHER [Buzz Braman]

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY MICHAEL WITTE [Drawing of Dale Davis throwing bricks at basket]

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER [Back view of Nick Anderson missing free throw]

COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS [Nail marking center of free throw line]

COLOR PHOTO: STEVE LIPOFSKY [Rik Smits in game]

SHORT FROM THE LINE

WHAT'S WITH SHAQ?

The NBA has a long and rich tradition of players who can make
free throws in practice but not in games. In basketball these
players are known as head cases. Exhibit A is center Shaquille
O'Neal of the Lakers. At a recent practice, O'Neal made 77 of
105 tries (.733 ). In games through last Saturday he was a
career .535 free throw shooter.

It's not that O'Neal doesn't try; he makes at least 50 free
throws a day and often shoots 100. His problem is that in games
his brain can't make his body do what he wants it to.

O'Neal's woes, Calvin Murphy says, begin with his form.
"Shaquille needs to start all over again, because if the Lakers
are looking for a championship, he's got to be able to make that
foul shot down the stretch," Murphy says. "That should be his
Number 1 priority."

In practice and when he makes free throws in games, O'Neal
raises his right elbow high while flexing his knees properly and
creates the correct arc on his shot. On his bad shots, his knees
stiffen, his elbow barely reaches his chest, and he pushes the
ball on a line drive, so that it clangs off the front of the rim.

O'Neal says the wrist flip necessary for a good free throw is
hard for him, because his wrist is tightened by a tendon that's
too short--the result of a childhood break in his shooting hand
that did not heal properly. C'mon, Shaq: If that's true, how do
you sink all those free throws in practice, and how did you make
14 of 20 foul shots in a game against the Nets last Thursday?

Wherever Shaq plays, he receives letters from scores of fans
giving him advice on how to improve his free throw shooting. One
letter writer recommended that he blink as he releases the ball.
Others have urged him to try hypnosis, psychotherapy and
acupuncture. Shooting underhanded is a frequent suggestion.

Sometimes in games O'Neal seems to try much harder on his second
free throw than on his first, and he seems to have more success
with it. But if he has the physical skills necessary to make
free throws, you'd think he would make more of them in games.
When O'Neal was with the Magic, the team tried to get him to see
a psychologist. It never happened. "He's talked to people who
have [psychology] in their background," says Leonard Armato,
O'Neal's agent. "Free throw shooting is very important to him.
It's a matter of confidence and rhythm. At some point a little
light will go on, and he'll improve a lot."

AND BEFORE SHAQ THERE WAS WILT

Another famous center, Wilt Chamberlain, struggled famously from
the foul line. He took more free throws than anyone in NBA
history, 11,862. But he was a .511 career free throw shooter,
and the Big Dipper dipped big in the playoffs, down to .465. If
he had made free throws at the rate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did,
.721, he would have had 2,491 more points. That would have added
a season's worth of scoring to his career.

In 1967-68 Chamberlain's free throw average was just .380, the
worst season ever for a player with more than 200 attempts.
Yet--this seems too weird to be true--he shares the record for
the most points from free throws in a game: 28, on 28-for-32
shooting from the line on the night in 1962 that he scored 100
points, against the Knicks.

Over his career the most success Chamberlain had from the foul
line was shooting underhanded (pictured at far left), but he
didn't enjoy making free throws that way. "I felt silly--like a
sissy," he wrote in his 1973 autobiography, Wilt. As we all know
from his '91 autobiography, A View from Above, Wilt was no sissy.

THE MICHEAL WILLIAMS STREAK

Few records in sports are as underappreciated as Williams's mark
for consecutive free throws made: 97, over two seasons, from
March 24 to Nov. 9, 1993, with the Timberwolves. On the way to
97, Williams had to pass the previous record of 78, set by
Calvin Murphy, the former Rockets guard who today is one of
Houston's TV broadcasters. That was no layup. Murphy enjoyed
owning the record and wouldn't relinquish it easily. "I was glad
Houston had a game the night I broke it, because Murphy couldn't
be there," says Williams. "I didn't have to think about him
sitting nearby. He said he would have wasted a $300 plane trip
to keep his record."

Williams, 31, is now a backup guard for Minnesota, his once
promising career thwarted by injuries. (This season, through
Saturday, he had made 28 of 29 free throws.) His record is a
stunning footnote to an ordinary career. His memory for details
of the streak is extraordinary.

"In Denver the rim gets lost in the yellow seats behind the
basket," he says. "The year I started the streak, we went to
Denver for a game, and I was 13 for 19 from the line. The next
time there I was 6 for 10. Then we went there during the streak,
and I hit six in a row. There was a technical foul, and I was
going to take the shot when Doug West ran over and said, 'Mike,
you've got the record going, do you want me to shoot it?' I told
him, 'If I miss it, I don't deserve the record.' That free throw
was probably the most difficult one in the streak."

Williams has made a study of the form of the free throw. He
compares it to the golf swing. "Fred Couples doesn't have the
same swing as Tiger Woods," he says, "but at impact, they're
releasing their muscles at the same time, and they have the same
follow-through." In golf and in foul shooting, Williams says,
"everything is set-up, routine and technique."

He knows that the record is likely to be the thing for which he
will be remembered most. He's modest about what it all means.
"I'm not the kind of guy who wears it around my neck," he says.
"I didn't have 97 made into a necklace. But I'm proud of it." As
well he should be.

SHOOTING TWO:
Rituals of the Modern Player

NBA players will tell you that in basketball there is free throw
shooting, and there is everything else. In everything else, a
player reacts to whatever the ball and other players are doing.
Players are instinctive--until they step to the free throw line.
Then they have more time on their hands than they know what to
do with. That leads to rituals, superstitions, mantras and
prayer. Some current examples:

Steve Smith of the Hawks has a bell with a star on either side
tattooed on his right biceps. Above the design is the surname of
his late mother, Bell, and below it is the name of his sister,
Janice, who was murdered when Steve was seven. He touches the
tattoo for good luck before shooting a free throw. It must be
working. Through Saturday he was an .856 foul shooter this
season, .831 for his career.

Karl Malone of the Jazz bounces the ball two dozen times or so
and talks to it before shooting, using at least 9.9 of the 10
allotted seconds, sometimes more. (The 10-second rule is almost
never called.) Malone won't reveal what he says to the ball,
though he will say that he changes his mantra periodically. In
1997 The Salt Lake Tribune hired two lip readers to decipher
Malone's private mumblings. They came up with the following:
"This is for Karl, Karl, my baby boy." Well, Junior's two years
old now, and Daddy has moved on to new sayings. Malone started
his foul line monologues after his first two years in the NBA,
during which he was a .548 free throw shooter. Through Saturday
he was averaging .746 for the 11 years since he began muttering,
.759 this season.

If anybody comes closer than Malone to being called on the
10-second rule, it's Alonzo Mourning, the Heat center. He
dribbles a few times, leisurely wipes his sweatbands across his
forehead, fiddles with the ball to find just the right seams,
waits for you to get back to the TV from fixing a sandwich and
finally fires. He shoots free throws reasonably well, with a
career average of .720, .667 this season. But he incurs the
wrath of sportswriters on deadline and of opposing coaches who
want the time violation called. Magic coach Chuck Daly has been
known to loudly count off the ticking seconds while Mourning
does his foul-line preening.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf of the Kings is a slave to routine, like most
good foul shooters. Abdul-Rauf suffers from Tourette's syndrome,
which can create an intense subconscious need for repetition.
His method never varies. He dribbles the ball twice and catches
it. He dribbles the ball three more times, spins it in his
hands, finds the seams and shoots. "I got the spin from watching
Michael Jordan, how calm he seemed at the line, the rhythm he
had," Abdul-Rauf says. Abdul-Rauf from the line: .909 career,
1.000 this season on only 16 tries. His Royal Airness: .839
career, .786 this year.

Mark Jackson of the Pacers puts his right index finger to his
mouth and then points his right hand toward the basket, not
unlike Babe Ruth calling a home run. Jackson uses the hand as an
aiming device. Also, he is one of the few players to stand
off-center at the foul line. Jackson was a .766 career free
throw shooter (.762 this season), below average for a guard.

You might think that the closer you stood to the hoop, the
easier the shot. Rasheed Wallace of the Trail Blazers thinks
otherwise. He stands a foot behind the foul line. Why? It's just
what makes him comfortable. There's no rush by other players to
step back from the line. Wallace's career foul shooting
percentage, .648 (.658 this season), might be the reason.

Jeff Hornacek of the Jazz is among the most consistent free
throw shooters. His career percentage, .872, was the fourth
highest among active players and ninth alltime. (He was shooting
.891 this season.) His form is out of a textbook, with one
little oddity that makes it distinctly his own: He brushes his
right cheek with the palm of his shooting hand twice before he
shoots. It's his way of beaming a "Hi" to his kids from arenas
around the country.

Anthony Mason of the Hornets is a subpar free throw shooter--his
career average was .686, and this season's mark was .637--with
extraordinary form. As he raises the ball from waist- to
head-high, he looks like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. His
knees bend and his shoulders twist in a way that suggests his
lower and upper body are independent. Then he props the ball in
his open left hand, hesitates and releases it with no warning,
seemingly having waited for inspiration. As a result, his
teammates and opponents draw dozens of lane violations each
season.

BUZZ BRAMAN IS DR. SURE SHOT

There's a superb videotape, available at yard sales, at some
summer basketball camps and on the World Wide Web ($33), called
Buzz Braman Is Doctor Sure Shot. On the back of the cassette
box, the good doctor is described as "The Man Who Shot 738 Free
Throws in a Row!" Anyone who has worked with Braman, a
42-year-old from Columbia, Md., will testify that he is an
excellent shooter, that he explains things simply, that he works
with a player's natural tendencies. There are other shot doctors
around, but none is as prominent.

Braman has worked with the 76ers, the Magic and the Bullets. He
continues to work privately with a half dozen NBA players on all
aspects of their shooting, including free throws. He has tutored
Hersey Hawkins, Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Webber. He says Armon
Gilliam and Juwan Howard improved under his guidance.

There's no way to conclusively gauge Dr. Sure Shot's
effectiveness. When he was employed by teams, no one knew how
many players were actually working with him, how much they were
listening to him, how much time they were putting in. "The
problem with Buzz and the other [shot doctors] out there is that
they don't get to the root problem," says one NBA assistant
coach. "They're talking about technique, but the real issue is
self-esteem or anxiety or something in the head. They can help
you in practice, but how do you carry that over to the game?"

That, Braman says, is ridiculous. The shooter's troubles may
become mental, he says, but they start out as shortcomings in
technique. "Look at Shaq, Karl Malone, a lot of guys, they back
up on their second free throw, like they're trying a fadeaway
jumper," Braman says. "That's a technique problem. Most guys in
the NBA are not willing to put in the time to get the muscle
memory needed to make free throws."

When Braman watches NBA games, he sees player after player go to
the line with well-practiced bad form. It makes him cringe. When
he wants to see good free throw technique, he says, he watches
kids in his camps.

RECENT MOMENTS IN FREE THROW INFAMY

1. June 7, 1995. First game of the NBA Finals, Magic against the
Rockets. Just over 10 seconds to play. The Magic lead by three.
Orlando guard-forward Nick Anderson (below) goes to the line for
four consecutive freebies. If he can make any of the four, the
Magic will almost assuredly win. Miss, miss, miss, miss. The
Rockets win the game in overtime and go on to sweep the series.

2. Jan. 31, 1996. Trail Blazers against the Jazz in Portland.
Five seconds to play. Portland trails by three. Cliff Robinson,
a Blazers forward, attempts a three-point shot and is fouled.
Robinson goes to the line to shoot three free throws. If he
makes all three, the game is tied. He misses the first two.
Portland calls a 20-second timeout, and Robinson is instructed
to miss the third; the Blazers are hoping for an offensive
rebound and another chance to shoot a trey. Robinson returns to
the line for his third shot. It goes in. Utah wins 98-94.

3. June 2, 1996. Game 7 of the NBA Western Conference finals,
Jazz against the SuperSonics, in Seattle. Eight seconds to play.
The Sonics lead by three. Utah's Karl Malone misses two free
throws. Seattle wins, 90-86.

4. June 1, 1997. First game of the NBA Finals, Bulls against the
Jazz on a Sunday in Chicago. Nine seconds to play. The game is
tied at 82. Malone goes to the foul line to shoot two. If he
makes them, the Jazz might actually beat the Bulls on the road.
Scottie Pippen of Chicago walks up to Malone and reportedly
says, "The Mailman doesn't deliver on Sunday." Malone misses
both shots. Nine seconds later Michael Jordan drains an
18-footer, and the Bulls win 84-82. Chicago goes on to win the
series in six games.

NUMBERS, PART I

In 1996-97 the 29 NBA teams collectively shot .738 from the free
throw line. The best-shooting team was the Warriors, at .778.
The worst-shooting team was the Lakers, at .692. The Lakers had
a 56-26 record. The Warriors were 30-52. Go figure.

A NOTE REGARDING THE NAME

You may call it a foul shot. The shot, after all, is the result
of a foul. However, in the parlance of the NBA it's a free
throw, with the emphasis on free, i.e., free points. At least
that's what it's supposed to be.

CALIPARI: PRACTICE DOES NOT MAKE PERFECT

There's a school of thought among NBA coaches that too much
discussion of free throws and too much practice increases
pressure and worsens free throw shooting. John Calipari, coach
of the Nets and a .730 free throw shooter in college, typifies
this view. "You can't practice everything, there's not enough
time," he says. "If we play great defensively, the free throws
take care of themselves. The only thing I pay attention to with
free throws is what a guy does in the final four minutes of a
game. If you can improve players' self-esteem and confidence,
get them to relax, teach visualization and routine, they will
shoot as well, or better, with the pressure on."

NUMBERS, PART II

In 1972-73, 35.2% of all NBA players shot 80% or better from the
foul line (minimum 100 attempts). Twenty-five years later only
30% are doing so well.

WEIRD BUT EFFECTIVE
(Retired Division)

Magic Johnson, who was an .848 career free throw shooter,
watched the ball--not the rim, as so many players do--while his
foul shots were in the air.... Hal Greer (.801) shot his free
throws as if they were 15-foot jumpers.... Bob Pettit (.761)
took a deep breath before launching a shot.... Dave Gambee
(.822) bent low with one leg stretched forward, like a ballerina
curtseying (right), then released his unorthodox underhanded
shot with wicked reverse English.

NUMBERS, PART III

In the 1972-73 season, 78.7% of all NBA players shot 70% or
better from the foul line. Twenty-five years later, only 70% are
doing as well.

TRULY FOUL FOUL SHOOTERS

1. Chris Dudley, center, Knicks: .461 career through Saturday.
Has so much trouble releasing the ball that he was once called
for a "fake free throw," as if he were trying to prompt a lane
violation.

2. Shaquille O'Neal, center, Lakers: .535 career and falling.
Was seen this season getting free throw instruction from...his
agent.

3. Dennis Rodman, forward, Bulls: .585 career, .532 in playoffs.
"I don't like being out there," he once said. "Too much
attention."

4. Lorenzo Williams, center, Wizards: .377 in six seasons. Has
the potential to be the worst free throw shooter in NBA history.

5. Dale Davis (top), forward, Pacers: .499 career. That sorry
number, however, does not reflect Davis's dismal performance
from the line over the last three seasons, in each of which he
has been well below .500.

NUMBERS, PART IV

In 1996-97, 19.3% of all points scored in the regular season
were on free throws. In the playoffs, the percentage went up to
21.6.

MARK PRICE'S TIPS FOR EXCELLENT FREE THROW SHOOTING

1. Find the nail. (There's a nail that marks the exact center of
the foul line, as in the picture above.)

2. Center yourself so your head is directly above the nail.

3. Look at the rim. Determine if it is tilting to the left or
the right. Adjust accordingly. (Price moves as much as an inch
in the direction of the tilted side of the rim.)

4. Spread your legs until your body is in its most stable
position, usually with your feet about shoulder-width apart. If
you're righthanded, put your left toe several inches behind the
line. Do the reverse if you're lefthanded.

5. Bounce the ball several times to get the feel of it.

6. Spin the ball in your hands. Grab it with the seams parallel
to the floor. Don't place any part of either hand on the needle
hole. No part of your palm should touch the ball.

7. Concentrate on a specific spot on the rim. (For most players
it's the back center of the rim; for Price, the front center.)

8. Bend your knees and raise the ball to your head in one fluid
motion. As you do this, start standing on your toes.

9. Draw the upper part of your shooting arm back so that you
create an L with the lower part of the arm. The elbow of your
shooting arm should be tucked in and directly below the hand.
Cock your wrist at about a 60-degree angle.

10. In one fluid motion remove your guide hand from the ball and
flick the wrist toward the rim. The last fingers to remain in
contact with the ball should be your index and middle fingers.

11. Follow through so that your fingers point toward the rim.

12. When shooting two, step away from the foul line after your
first shot, so that a teammate will not shake or slap your hand.
The encouragement is distracting.

13. Take 500 free throws a day in practice in the off-season and
100 a day in season. Keep track of how you're doing.

NUMBERS, PART V

The playoff record for most free throws made in a single game
without a miss is 18, by Karl Malone--yes, Karl Malone--against
the Lakers on May 10, 1997.

The record for most free throws attempted in one game without
success is 10, by Wilt Chamberlain, against the Pistons on Nov.
4, 1960.

ON FREE THROW SHOOTING, BY CHRIS MULLIN

You've got to create an empty gym for yourself. You're on the
line, the fans are screaming, the game's tied--you've got to
make yourself think you're alone, no pressure. Free throws are
your only chance in basketball to be selfish. It's your time, so
enjoy it. I want to be on the line. You've got to have good
mechanics, and you've got to practice. Summer is the time to
really practice free throws. If you practice, you feel like you
should make them in games. You're not standing on the line
praying them in. You're shooting them in. You feel that you
deserve to make them.

THE SUREST SHOTS

Here are the players, present and past, who were most often fine
from the line.

ACTIVE PLAYERS

PLAYER CURRENT TEAM CAREER FT%*
1. Mark Price Magic .905
2. Reggie Miller Pacers .877
3. Ricky Pierce Bucks .876
4. Jeff Hornacek Jazz .872
5. Hersey Hawkins Sonics .868
(tie) Micheal Williams Timberwolves .868
7. Terrell Brandon Bucks .865
(tie) Chris Mullin Pacers .865
9. Mitch Richmond Kings .845
10. Joe Dumars Pistons .844

ALLTIME

PLAYER SEASONS CAREER FT%
1. Mark Price 1986-87 through Saturday .905
2. Rick Barry 1965-66 through 1979-80 .900
3. Calvin Murphy 1973-74 through 1982-83 .892
4. Scott Skiles 1986-87 through 1995-96 .889
5. Larry Bird 1979-80 through 1991-92 .886
6. Bill Sharman 1950-51 through 1960-61 .883
7. Reggie Miller 1987-88 through Saturday .877
8. Ricky Pierce 1982-83 through Saturday .876
9. Jeff Hornacek 1986-87 through Saturday .872
(tie ) Kiki Vandeweghe 1980-81 through 1992-93 .872

*Stats through Saturday; minimum 1,200 free throw attempts
SOURCE: ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU

BIG MEN, SOFT HANDS
(Minimum 500 free throws)

7'4" Rik Smits (above), center, Pacers, .774
7'3" Arvydas Sabonis, center, Trail Blazers, .778
7'0" Joe Kleine, center, Bulls, .795
6'11" Christian Laettner, forward, Hawks, .821
Dan Schayes, center, Magic, .805
6'10" Bill Wennington, center, Bulls, .784
Danny Ferry, forward, Cavaliers, .833
Detlef Schrempf, forward, Sonics, .800
Joe Smith, forward, 76ers, .790
Terry Mills, forward, Heat, .783
Derrick McKey, forward, Pacers, .780
Derrick Coleman, forward, 76ers, .767

SURPRISE!
The Mavs Have Home Court Advantage

How hard is it for visiting teams to make free throws in the
various NBA arenas? The foulest venues seem to be Reunion Arena
("They don't have a lot of bounce to their rims there," says
Heat forward Terry Mills. "Either it's straight in or it's
out"), Market Square Arena ("It's a tough crowd," says Heat
guard Tim Hardaway) and SkyDome ("The rims are never even," says
Trail Blazers guard Damon Stoudamire). Madison Square Garden, on
the other hand, gets raves from most players. "When you get a
chance to play in the Garden," says Clippers guard Darrick
Martin, "you just always want to do well, so your focus is at
its peak." Here are all 29 primary venues, ranked from hardest
to easiest for visiting shooters.
VISITORS' VISITORS'
ARENA (Home team) FT PCT.* FG PCT.
1. Reunion Arena (Mavericks) .698 .455
2. Market Square Arena (Pacers) .702 .423
3. SkyDome (Raptors) .703 .474
4. Charlotte Coliseum (Hornets) .716 .454
5. L.A. Memorial Sports Arena (Clippers).719 .471
(tie) Great Western Forum (Lakers) .719 .431
7. United Center (Bulls) .721 .419
(tie) Rose Garden (Trail Blazers) .721 .422
9. Key Arena (SuperSonics) .725 .439
10. Compaq Center (Rockets) .726 .461
11. America West Arena (Suns) .727 .447
(tie) CoreStates Center (76ers) .727 .433
13. ARCO Arena (Kings) .731 .430
14. The New Arena in Oakland (Warriors) .732 .436
15. Alamodome (Spurs) .735 .400
16. Georgia Dome (Hawks) .737 .434
17. Orlando Arena (Magic) .738 .447
18. Bradley Center (Bucks) .740 .450
tie) The Palace of Auburn Hills (Pistons).740 .442
20. Target Center (Timberwolves) .745 .434
21. FleetCenter (Celtics) .746 .468
22. McNichols Sports Arena (Nuggets) .748 .474
23. Continental Airlines Arena (Nets) .751 .468
24. Miami Arena (Heat) .753 .422
25. MCI Center (Wizards) .756 .456
26. Gund Arena (Cavaliers) .758 .437
27. Madison Square Garden (Knicks) .760 .433
28. General Motors Place (Grizzlies) .761 .464
29. Delta Center (Jazz) .775 .425

*All stats through Saturday
SOURCE: ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU