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What is “Granny Style” Free Throw and Why is it Popular?

Free throwing is one of the simpler shots to make in basketball. It’s just you and the basket, no commotion, no distractions. It doesn’t sound difficult, but in reality, it is. There are several kinds of shooting forms, but have you heard about the Granny Style?

The Granny Style is an underhand technique in shooting free throws in basketball. Though popular, highly efficient, and legal, it is not commonly used by NBA players for fear of being ridiculed. 

The Granny Style

The Granny Style shot was the standard shot when basketball was invented in 1891. This style was soon replaced by the one-hand push shot in the 1940s, the newer style was first used by Kenny Sailors, a professional basketball player. (Source: Complex)

By definition, the granny-style shot is an underhand method of shooting the basketball. The player will hold the ball with both hands in front of the player’s body while arms are fully extended. The player will then release the ball before his arms reach the height of his chest. (Source: Sports Lingo)

There is a science as to why the granny shot is a better option when shooting free throws. Peter Brancazio, a physics advisor and author of SportScience: Physical Laws and Optimum Performance, explains that successful free throws rely on the ball’s arc towards the basket. 

The official-sized basket has a diameter of 18 inches, while the official basketball has a diameter of 9.5 inches. This means that there is a margin of about 8.5 inches. When a free throw is shot using the overhand throw we are all familiar with, the 8.5-inch margin shrinks. This happens because of the sharp angle it creates, effectively making the basket an ellipse.

However, the angle created when the free throw is shot via the granny-style is steeper. This means that the likelihood of the ball getting into the basket is higher since the margin does not shrink. Brancazio calculated that the optimum angle for a successful free throw is 45 degrees steep. This means that the arc of the trajectory of the ball from your hand should be higher.

Furthermore, the granny-style gives a little backspin to the ball. This eliminates the chance of it bouncing off when it hits the rim. (Source: Discover Magazine)

Rick Barry

Throughout the modern history of basketball, only a few players used the Granny shot. Probably the most notable professional player who stuck with the granny-style was Rick Barry. Barry’s career in professional basketball was when he was drafted by the San Francisco Warriors in 1965. 

Barry ended his 14-year professional career as the all-time leader in free-throw percentage at 90% accuracy, thanks to his distinctive and old-fashioned underhand technique. After his playing career, Barry remained within the game, becoming a commentator in the NBA.

Barry was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987 and was named one of the fifty greatest players of the NBA in 1996.

Barry has been an advocate of the granny-style and has tried to convince professional players to learn his style. Barry tried to convert several players, including Shaquille O’Neal and Chris Dudley but was unsuccessful. (Source: Britannica)

With the underhand shot, I could make 80 percent of my throws with my eyes closed. And I do mean closed.

Rick Barry

(Source: Discover Magazine)

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