LeBron James is a below-average free throw shooter. For his career, James has made only 74.4% of his attempts from the line while the NBA’s league average has hovered north of 75.0% ever since 2001–02. Shooting has always been somewhat of murky area for James, but while his numbers from the field and beyond the arc have fluctuated throughout his career, James has been consistently meh at the charity stripe.
Through the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first seven games of the 2015–16 campaign, James shot just 28–for–47 (59.6%) from the line. For the team’s eighth contest of the season, a Nov. 10 bout vs. the Utah Jazz, James unveiled a new free throw shooting motion. He began taking a few dribbles before extending his left foot backwards, tapping the hardwood and returning his foot back to the line to bend his knees and release.
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"I started watching film again when I shot the ball really well from the free-throw line three years ago when I was in Miami," James told Cleveland.com in December. "I was shooting like 85 percent for that four weeks and I looked very comfortable," James said. "I remembered it, I watched it on film and that's what I went back to."
James shot 74.0% from Nov. 10 until April 1. He used this rockstep form all season before switching back to a stationary motion on April 2 in Atlanta.
James made 25 of his next 30 attempts, including his final four games of the regular season and his first 5 games in the playoffs. A free-throw motion is similar to a golf swing: Too much leg movement and you can derail your effectiveness. It seemed like James had found more of a rhythm at the line after abandoning the herky-jerky stroke.
Perhaps he called up an old Miami Heat teammate, and one of the best free throw shooters in NBA history for some pointers.
James made his only free throw attempt in Game 1 against Atlanta, only to shoot just 13–for–22 (59.1%) for the series. He may now be mimicking Ray Allen, but it’s not exactly working. It will be interesting to monitor James’s free-throw form and efficiency throughout the remainder of the playoffs.