Fans of basketball probably notice that each player has a routine when shooting free throws. Jason Kidd’s kiss, Shaq’s sweat-wiping, and we can’t even begin to simplify Reggie Miller’s salt-dipping free-throw ritual are all quite the staple in the NBA.
But there’s one thing that you’ll notice about everyone’s free throws – no one jumps. And it leaves us with the question: Can you jump during a free throw?
What is the NBA’s Official Rule on Free Throws?
There’s no resource more definitive than the NBA Rulebook, so let’s start there. Free throws fall under Rule No. 9, which states the following:
- A free throw shooter must be above the free throw line.
- His feet must not touch the free throw line before, during, or even after he has shot his free throw until the ball hits the rim, the backboard, or until the free throw ends.
- Free throw shooters are not permitted to fake a free throw attempt to make the other team commit a lane violation.
Section (b) is the most relevant for our current purposes. It merely states that a player should not touch, cross, or go over the free throw line until the ball hits the backboard or rim or until the free throw ends. There’s no mention of whether a player can jump during a free throw.
So, jumping is technically allowed as long as you don’t violate section (b). You can even see a player do this in the NCAA. However, have you ever noticed anyone jump for a free throw in the NBA?
Why Don’t Basketball Players Jump on Free Throws?
So, can you jump during a free throw in the NBA? The quick answer is yes. Nothing in the rule book says you can’t do so. But why don’t players jump on free throws?
Well, there are plenty of reasons, and most have something to do with improving their shooting accuracy. Jumping on a free throw will affect your shot in two ways:
1. It affects your control over the power of your free throw attempt. And from a relatively close range, using a jump shot can easily be a recipe for shots that go beyond the mark.
2. It adds another layer of variability to your shot. By jumping, you introduce a window at the very peak of your jump that allows you to apply the appropriate arc and ball spin. If you mistime this, you’ll end up with a missed shot.
3. Unnecessary energy expenditure required by a jump shot, especially during the closing minutes, can mean the difference between winning and losing.
4. It adds another stress on the body. In basketball, you must go for rebounds, change directions quickly, and sometimes get physical with other players. All of these activities put a strain on the body, especially the knees. Players can remove a bit of strain on their knees by not jumping on free throws.
So, by not jumping on their free throws, players have better control over their shot’s power and eliminate another variability in their free throw attempt. This allows them to focus on the most important facets of their free throw techniques, such as balance, stability, and follow-through.
Proper Techniques for Shooting Free Throws
Now that we know it’s immaterial whether a player jumps or stays planted on the ground when shooting free throws, what’s the best way to shoot free throws?
The key is to use a comfortable technique that allows you to focus on your balance and follow through. Free throw shooting requires more finesse than jump shots, so it’s best to find a routine that feels comfortable to you.
So naturally, players will have a shooting routine and style that works best for them. However, some general guidelines can help you improve your free throw percentage and become more consistent with your shot.
1. Stance and Alignment: Start with a comfortable and balanced stance, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Some coaches would also teach you to keep your feet perfectly square with the basket. However, some players are more comfortable with having one slightly more forward than the other to compensate for the angle of their particular release style.
2. Grip and Ball Position: Use your shooting hand to grip the ball with your fingers spread evenly. The ball position is the tricky part. Some players prefer to launch their shots near their shooting eye, while others can shoot from their non-dominant side, like LaMelo Ball. And yet, a few others prefer an entirely different shot altogether, such as Rick Barry’s underhand free throw shot. The key, however, is to find the most comfortable ball position for you and stick to the one you can consistently perform.
3. Squat and Elevate: Bend your knees slightly and squat down as you begin your shooting motion. This is perhaps the most important tip, no matter the ball position or release style you choose. Use your legs to generate power and transfer it to the ball through your body. This leg drive adds a tremendous amount of control to your shot giving it more consistency and applicability.
4. Follow-Through: The follow-through is crucial to adding ball spin, which is scientifically proven to improve shooting percentages. As you release the ball, extend your shooting hand toward the basket, keeping your fingers pointed toward the target. Hold the position until the ball reaches the hoop.
Wrapping Things Up: Can You Jump During a Free Throw?
So, are you allowed to jump during a free throw? The quick answer is yes. You’re technically allowed to jump during a free throw. However, do you really want or need to?
While there is no rule prohibiting jumping during a free throw in the NBA, it is a rarity to see players employ this technique. The NBA rulebook simply states that players should not touch, cross, or go over the free throw line until the ball hits the backboard or rim or until the free throw ends.
In the meantime, you’ll probably see jumping on free throws in the kid’s leagues, but not much beyond that. Kids don’t have the same control over their muscles yet, so jumping on their free throws can add some much-needed arc and distance to their shot.
So, if you’re struggling with your free throw, it may be time to reassess your shot. You may have brought a little bit of your habits as a kid and are jumping a little on your free throw. Try to refine your free throw shooting routine using the guide above. Pretty soon, you’ll be as automatic from the line as Stephen Curry, Steve Nash, and the other free-throw-shooting GOATs!
We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.