Why The Underhand Free Throw Is About To Make A Comeback

There are things that don’t need to make a comeback (short shorts, the sky hook, Adam Morrison), and there are things that do: fanny packs, adult literacy, and the Granny Shot.

It’s possible that the inability to make the easiest shot in basketball relates to having “Andre” in your first name (see: Drummond; Jordan; Roberson), but it’s more likely there’s an extremely simple, scientific explanation as to why it’s difficult for tall, lanky men to maintain a consistent overhand shooting motion.

Rick Barry’s kid is doing it, a benchwarmer on the Rockets (Chinanu Onuaku) is doing it, and it’s soon to become a fad. Why? Because it works. 

Here are the reasons the least cool shot in basketball is about to become the most cool…


There’s only been one man brave enough to study the underhand free throw, and his name is Dr. Larry Silverberg, a Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor at North Carolina State University.

“In an overhead shot, the motion of the body starts with the legs, torso, arms, hands, in a complex sequence of motions,” Silverberg says.

“The beauty of the underhand shot, although you’re releasing it farther from the basket in a sense, because you’re releasing it lower, is that you have one smooth motion.”

“One motion is much easier than four that have to be sequenced. So when you perfect it, you’ll end up with a release speed that has lower statistical variation than the overhead.”

What Rick Barry, his son Canyon, and Onuaku have been able to do is to quickly build “kinesthetic” memory with the Granny. In other words, they can hone the motion in a matter of weeks, whereas an overhead shot for a 7-footer is an incredibly complex motion that many athletes, due to their lack of coordination, will never be able to execute consistently

Any player who’s intelligent enough to understand the rudimentary science behind the floater should be ecstatic that a solution exists to fix an aspect of their game that’s more broken than a teenage girl’s heart after One Direction split up. But alas, science is No. 3 on this list because there are things far more important than physics…


I’ve been saying this for a long time, but the first mainstream NBA player to embrace the Granny will receive a ton of publicity and have the chance to turn it into a profit.

We’ve already seen it with Onuaku.

No offense to the former University of Louisville big man, but would his career be meaningful in the least if he hadn’t started shooting free throws underhand? Of course not.

But Chinanu realized that he was a fringe NBA player and that shooting less than 50% from the line wasn’t going to help his chances, so he got to work on the Granny, shot 73.2% from the line in the D-League, and made his first four free throws as a member of the Rockets.

And now — in what’s likely the greatest honor of his life — he’s getting ink in TheLead.

Congrats, Chinanu. You finally made it.

In all seriousness, think about if Andre Roberson shot free throws underhand in the OKC-Houston series. First off, he would’ve made a majority of them and we’d be talking about him in a positive light, but more importantly, he’d become a talking point.

His agent likely couldn’t turn that into a national commercial or legitimate sponsorship, but it’s possible. There’s no way in hell Roberson’s getting a deal like that unless he starts shooting free throws underhand, I’ll tell you that much.

Even without procuring a national deal, Roberson taking one for the team and showing he has no ego could probably convince a local Oklahoma business to fork over $100k to employ Andre as a sponsor, right? Or are we taking crazy pills?

The underhand free throw would be extremely beneficial to any terrible free throw shooter’s brand. It shows they’re selfless and would do anything to win, which would endear them to fans and companies alike.


Drummond and DeAndre both signed max contracts, but players like Roberson and Onuaku will need to make free throws to stay in the league. And being even a decent player can guarantee mucho dinero. Just ask Evan Turner (above). Roberson was 3-21 from the line in the playoffs. Let that sink in. I don’t know you, but I guarantee you, whoever you are could shoot better than .14% from the line, even with all the pressure of the NBA Playoffs weighing on your brain.

The lower rung of the NBA will start floatin’ em, and the stars will follow. It’s been a slow process, but it’s happening. The underhand free throw is making a comeback…

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