Adam Kilgore has a piece on Houston Rockets forward Chinanu Onuaku, the only player in the modern NBA to shoot free throws in the style of Rick Barry — that is, underhand. Barry, who I saw play in the ABA in the 1970s as one of the New York Nets, led the NBA in free throw percentages for several years, averaging 90% accuracy, and even had one season in which he drained 95% of those shots. If that doesn’t convince you how good Barry was, try this story:
[Stan] Van Gundy, the Pistons coach, worked as a counselor at one of Barry’s basketball camps in the late 1970s. One day, Barry challenged anyone present to a contest, and Van Gundy volunteered.
“What the hell, you know?” Van Gundy recalled Tuesday. “I was a good free throw shooter, even though I obviously wasn’t Rick Barry. So I go out there so we’re both 9 for 9. I make my 10th one, I’m shooting first, and he says, ‘Okay. Here’s what I’ll do. I’m going to shoot this next one blindfolded and with double the arc, and it’s got to go through nothing but net.’ If it doesn’t, I win, because he didn’t want to keep it going. So I think, This is great. So they blindfold him, and he shoots the ball, and it seems like it goes up to like where the ceiling was, and straight through. Straight through. And I was like, ‘All right….If you can do that, I ain’t going to win, anyway.’”