Shaquille O’Neal is infamous for a lot of things, his once in a generation combination of size, power and athleticism, his larger than life personality and his status as more than likely one of the 10 to 15 greatest players to ever play the game of basketball.
One other thing he is infamous for and led to the creation of one of the most aggravating strategies in basketball history, that is right, I am talking about the Hack-A-Shaq, is his inability to shoot free throws.
Shaq could brick his free throws with the best of them and appeared to be flicking a tennis ball rather than shooting a basketball at the free throw line. He inspired a generation of terrible free throw shooters at the center position, Ben Wallace, Dwight Howard and now DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond (who have both improved quite a bit this season).
People always wondered if Shaq would be better off shooting his free throws underhanded and fellow NBA legend who shot 90% for his career from the line underhanded, Ricky Barry even offered to teach The Big Aristotle.
Shaq wasn’t having that.
Here is what Shaq told Graham Flanagan of Business Insider about his unwillingness to try shooting free throws underhanded:
“Shaquille O’Neal: Because it’s boring.
Business Insider: But it’s been proven to be somewhat effective.
O’Neal: No, it’s not. It’s not proven. Just ’cause a couple guys did it doesn’t mean anybody can do it.
I told Rick Barry I’d rather shoot 0% than shoot underhand. I’m too cool for that.”
Shaq’s first point is a salient one, shooting underhanded is no magic cure for shooting woes, just because it worked for a guy who was a great shooter in general doesn’t mean it would work for anybody. It was an option worth trying, but far from a guarantee.
His second point is just stubborn and foolish though. I highly doubt he would rather never make a free throw in his career than shoot them underhanded. I am sure Shaq would have found a way to make it cool, and did his actual free throw strategy make him look cool, I would argue not.
Can you imagine how many points Shaq could have scored in his career if he would have even shot 70% from the line? He would have reached the 30k point plateau with 30,514.