The free throws being shot by some of today's NBA players are actually too painful to look at. During those excruciating moments, I find myself gazing into my lap and waiting until the groans stop before I return to the action
Mostly it's the centers. I played with Wilt Chamberlain, a notoriously bad free-throw shooter. The poor man tried everything, even Rick Barry's underhand toss. Everything, that is, except putting in the time it takes to become skillful. And that may be the problem with today's brick layers. But not entirely.
There is a question of their technique, equally painful to watch. What I don't understand is that everything these player need to become competent from the free-throw line is right there staring them in the face, if they'd only see it. Pray tell, you say. Ok here's some free advice: Get video tape of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash (there are a few other virtuosos) and copy exactly what they do. And I mean exactly, step by step. If this sounds simplistic, so be it.
But if a parrot can learn to imitate human speech, a man with some modicum of will power can imitate the exact motions of another human being. If there is any trick to this for tall men to overcome, it is this: seven footers are already so close to the height of the rim (10 feet from the floor) even 15 feet away, that they can't imagine the angle their shooting arm must be in at the end of a shot - at at least a 45 degree angle from the floor. As weird as this sounds, I believe it freaks them out to have their arm reaching up so high. So what do they do? They flatten their arm and that creates a flat shot. Duh!
Is there anything else they can do to improve their technique? Well, yes. they can keep their shooting arm extended instead of dropping it so quickly. I learned about keeping my shooting arm in the air from the brothers I played with and against in the Bay Area, oh so long ago. They called it "Styling". Looking good meant something to them. And so did making free-throws.
Foul Shots: A Clinic by William Matthews
for Paul Levitt
Be perpendicular to the basket,
toes avid for the line.
Already this description
is perilously abstract; the ball
and basket are round, at the nailhead
centered in the centerplank
of the foul circle is round,
and though the rumpled body
isn't round, it isn't
perpendicular. You have to draw
"an imaginary line," as the breezy
coaches say, "through your shoulders."
Here's how to cheat: remember
your collarbone. Now the instructions
grow spiritual - deep breathing,
relax and concentrate both; aim
for the front of the rim but miss it
deliberately so the ball goes in.
Ignore this part of the clinic
and shoot 200 foul shots
every day. Teach yourself not to be
bored by any boring one of them.
You have to love to do this, and chances
are you don't; you'd love to be good
at it but not by a love that drives
you to shoot 200 foul shots
every day, and the lovingly unlaunched
foul shots we're talking about now -
the clinic having served to bring us
together - circle eccentrically
in a sky of stolid orbits
as unlike as you and I are
from the area those foul shots
leave behind when they go in.
What my musings are all about...
Blogging might well be the 21st century's form of journaling. As a writing teacher, I have always advised my students to keep a daily journal as a way of organizing their thoughts for future writing projects, a discipline I have unfortunately never consistently practiced myself. By blogging, I might finally be able to follow my own good advice.
The difference between journaling and blogging is that the blogger opens his or her writing to the public, something journal- writers are usually reluctant to do. I am not so reticent.
The trick for me will be to avoid cluttering the internet with more blather, something none of us need more of. If I stick to subjects I know: sports and literature, I believe I can avoid that pitfall. I can't promise that I'll not stray from time to time to comment on ancillary subjects, but I will make every attempt to be interesting and perhaps even insightful.