On March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain made 28-of-32 free throws. Pretty amazing for a career 51-percent free throw shooter and a huge part of the reason he scored an NBA record 100 points that night in Pennsylvania.
Perhaps Chamberlain was just fortunate. Maybe.
Chamberlain shot 61-percent from the line that season and averaged more than 50 points per game. He shot 59-percent from the line the next season and never better than 53-percent from the line after that. In addition, Chamberlain never got to 50 points per game again for a season and only once averaged more than 40 points per game for a season after that.
What happened? Well, there’s one thing you could point to: Chamberlain shot free throws underhanded during the 1961-62 season. Never did it again after that. Or before.
And according to many, including on Malcom Gladwell’s podcast, “Revisionist History,” Chamberlain didn’t like shooting underhanded free throws because it was embarrassing.
Maybe OKC’s Andre Roberson is embarrassed, too. Why wouldn’t he be? After all, no one shoots underhanded in the NBA. But honestly, what’s more embarrassing – shooting underhanded or shooting so bad, like missing 18 of 21 free throws against Houston in the playoffs, and shooting 42.3 percent for the season?
It’s time for Roberson to try something new. In a story, published Wednesday in The Oklahoman, Roberson said he tried shooting free throws underhanded at practice. He went on to say, “That S*** does not work. I’m sorry.” Well, the thing is, trying it in practice and dedicating yourself to making a change isn’t exactly the same thing. Underhanded would work for Roberson if he could make the choice to give it a real try and also put aside any possible fear that he doesn’t look “cool” shooting free throws a non-traditional way.
“What’s the aversion?” former 89-percent free throw shooter Rick Barry said to the Oklahoman. It’s a great question. But instead of asking what the aversion is, the real question should be, what’s the downside?
“I’ve heard it all,” Roberson said to The Oklahoman. “You get it all. Everybody has their own. You just got to figure out what’s right for you.”
People who have the “yips” in golf or people who have back pain, will do just about anything to fix the problem, no questions asked, and while Roberson is likely hearing fixes and solutions from all sorts of people who would like to see him do better from the line, all he has to do is look to Chamberlain. And Barry and tune out the rest. Sometimes all that noise makes it impossible to hear anything at all.
Underhanded works. Go back to the gym. Try again. Barry has worked with lots of subjects. He says it works. Why not give it another try? Doing things the same way and hoping for change, doesn’t work.
“I’ll try to keep working at it,” Roberson said to The Oklahoman. “Chipping away at it and figure it out.”
Roberson doesn’t need to figure it out. He needs something different.