Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal was once advised to try shooting under-handed free throws, but he didn’t want any part of that
Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal is regarded as one of the greatest big men to ever play the game. The 4-time champion had immense success ever since his Orlando Magic days. It was with the Mafic where he became the last superstar to defeat Michael Jordan in a playoff series.
Shaq was insanely talented under the rim. He could hit you with a flurry of post moves with his surprisingly quick feet. He could hook or dunk over just about anything. There was one glaring weakness in his game that would define counter-strategies against him for years to come.
Shaq made just about half of his free throws throughout his career, on close to 10 attempts a game. Rival teams saw this as an opportunity to slow him down. ‘Hack-a-Shaq’ was a very popular technique back in the day. It was so popular that Spurs’ HC Gregg Popovich essentially guaranteed a Spurs victory against the Suns in 2008’s controversial first-round series.
Shaquille O’Neal wanted nothing to do with under-hand shooting from the charity stripe
Overall, Shaquille O’Neal had a beautiful game. His one chink in the armor was his free-throw shooting. During the 1997-98 season, Hall-of-Famer Rick Barry’s son Jon Barry was on the Lakers. Seeing his big man struggle from the free-throw line, he had some words of advice for Shaq.
Barry was on the Dan Patrick Show, where he recalled a conversation with Shaq. He had just suggested Shaq take a page from his father’s book and attempt under-handed free throws to boost his efficiency.
“I played with Shaq in 97 and I used to joke with him about it. He’s like, ‘I am not looking like a sissy like that. I am not going that, that’s embarrassing.’ What’s more embarrassing than shooting 18 for 39 from the free-throw line in a game? Or doing that”
The under-handed free throws worked really well for NBA champion Rick Barry. Rick shot close to 90% from the line for his career. He won a championship with the Golden State Warriors.
Shaq was too prideful to take that advice. However, Shaq was also known to extraordinarily improve his free-throw percentage during clutch moments. Winning three straight Finals MVP titles doesn’t come along easily, and he knew exactly when he needed to turn it up.