Pages: Free throws

John Z. Pages
·2 min read

Steph Curry is the all-time best at that uncontested basketball shot taken 15 feet away. This season, he’s made 176 of 187 foul shots and is shooting at an incredible 94.1 percent clip. There is no debate that GSW #30 is the greatest shooter of all time.

While Curry is the best, did you know that the worst free throw shooter ever is Wilt Chamberlain? Yes, no misprint there. In his 1958 to 1973 NBA career, the 7-foot-1 former Harlem Globetrotters center went to the free throw line 11,862 times. He converted only 5,805 for an embarrassing 51.1 percent average.

“Wilt the Stilt” holds multiple NBA records such as most points scored in a game (100), most rebounds in a game (55), and the highest per game average (50.36 PPG in 1961-62) but his record of free throw misses also ranks at the top.

Shaquille O’Neal joins Wilt as one of history’s worst foul shooters. His career average is 52.7 percent. He was so bad at shooting from the free throw line that teams devised the “Hack-a-Shaq.” It’s a defensive ploy with a simple tactic: Foul Shaq!

Dennis Rodman was one target. “The Worm” stood only 6-foot-7 but was the league’s best rebounder, leading the NBA in this area in seven seasons. (I got the chance to see Rodman when he played at the Mandaue Sports Complex and he was both fun and funny.) As a free throw shooter? Rodman wasn’t as bad as Wilt or Shaq but he shot only 58.4 percent in his 14-year career.

This 2021-22 season, the worst-performing is Clint Capela with a 54.6 percent average. But here’s a question that’s mind-boggling: Why is Russell Westbrook (the 2017 NBA MVP awardee) the fifth-worst free throw shooter this season (60 percent average)? Same with the two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (seventh worst free-throw shooter this season). LeBron James’ numbers also puzzle me (69.8 percent 2021 average).

Which brings me to my trivia question: Who is the best free throw shooter so far this season, beating Steph Curry’s 94.1 percent and Chris Paul’s 96.2 percent? The answer: His grandmother, Marcelina Tullao, hails from Bacolor, Pampanga. He played for Gilas Pilipinas and, with his stellar 2021 play, is the early favorite for the “Sixth Man of the Year” trophy. With a free throw percentage of 96.4 percent, his initials spell JC.