Free throw

A free throw is an integral part of any basketball game, often playing a crucial role in determining the outcome of a match. Awarded when a player is fouled or for certain other game infringements, free throws present an opportunity for a team to score extra points while the game clock is stopped. Given their significance, players who perfect the art of free throws can greatly contribute to their team’s success on the court.

The mechanics of a free throw involve an unguarded shot attempt taken from behind the free-throw line, which is located at the end of the restricted area. As the shooter attempts to put the ball through the hoop, the defense is not permitted to impede the shot in any way, although they are allowed to rebound the ball if the shot is unsuccessful. Depending on the nature of the foul or infringement, a player might be awarded anywhere between one and three free throws, making it essential for athletes to hone their free throw technique for various game scenarios.

Throughout basketball’s history, several players have earned a reputation as free throw masters, establishing themselves as formidable forces on the court. By understanding the rules and techniques of free throws, any basketball player can make strides in improving their offensive skills and overall contribution to their team’s performance.

What is a Free Throw

Definition and Usage

A free throw is an unguarded shot attempt in a basketball game, awarded to a player who has been fouled by an opponent. This scoring opportunity takes place behind the free-throw line, which is situated at the end of the restricted area. Each successful free throw is worth one point.

Free throws can vary in number, typically ranging from one to three, depending on the type of foul committed. For instance, if a player is fouled while attempting a two-point shot or a three-point shot, they would be granted two or three free throws, respectively.

Purpose in the Game

Free throws serve several purposes in basketball. Primarily, they function as a penalty for committing a foul, deterring players from engaging in overly aggressive plays or rule violations. This helps to maintain the game’s integrity and ensures that skillful plays are prioritized over unwarranted physicality.

Furthermore, free throws provide an opportunity for the fouled team to recover lost scoring opportunities due to the foul. Since free throws are unguarded, a player with a high free-throw shooting percentage can effectively capitalize on these chances, adding valuable points to their team’s score.

Lastly, free throws can create strategic opportunities for both teams. Coaches might employ tactics, such as intentionally fouling a poor free-throw shooter to limit their scoring chances or leveraging free throws to manage the game clock effectively.

Free Throw Technique

The free throw is an important aspect of basketball that allows players to score unopposed. Mastering the free throw technique involves several key components, including proper stance, focusing and aiming, and execution.

Proper Stance

To set up for a free throw, begin with your feet shoulder-width apart and parallel to the free throw line. Position your shooting foot slightly in front of your non-shooting foot to maintain balance. Keep your knees slightly bent, and distribute your weight evenly between both feet.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Place shooting foot slightly forward
  • Slightly bend your knees
  • Distribute weight evenly between feet

Focusing and Aiming

Before attempting the free throw, take a moment to focus on the target. Aim for a spot on the back of the rim or for the center of the basket, and visualize the ball passing through the net. Developing a pre-shot routine, such as taking a deep breath or dribbling a certain number of times, can help enhance focus and provide consistency.

  • Identify a specific target on the rim
  • Visualize the ball passing through the net
  • Develop a pre-shot routine to improve focus


With proper stance and focus, move on to the execution of the free throw. Hold the ball in your dominant hand, with the fingertips resting on the seams of the ball. Place your non-dominant hand on the side of the ball for support. As you begin the shooting motion, bend your knees, extend your shooting arm, and flick your wrist in a smooth, controlled motion. Follow through with your wrist, and keep your eyes on the target throughout the entire process.

  • Grip ball with fingertips resting on seams
  • Support ball with non-dominant hand
  • Bend knees and extend shooting arm in one fluid motion
  • Follow through with wrist and maintain eye contact with target

Free Throw Rules and Regulations

When Free Throws Are Awarded

Free throws are awarded in basketball under several circumstances:

  • Personal fouls: When a player is fouled while attempting a shot, they are awarded a specific number of free throws, depending on the type of shot (two for a regular attempt and three for a three-point attempt).
  • Technical fouls: Referees may also assess technical fouls for unsportsmanlike conduct or other violations, granting the opposing team a single free throw.
  • Team fouls: Once a team reaches a certain number of accumulated fouls during a half or a period, their opponents may be granted free throws called “bonus” or “penalty” free throws.

Player Positions During the Attempt

During a free throw attempt, players on the court must be positioned according to specific rules:

  1. Free throw shooter: The shooter must be positioned above the free throw line and within the upper half of the free throw circle. They have 10 seconds to attempt the free throw from the moment they receive the ball.
  2. Lane positions: The four spots closest to the basket, known as the “low blocks,” are occupied by two players from the shooter’s team and two players from the opposing team. Players standing in these positions must remain within the three-foot-wide free throw lane.
  3. Remaining players: The players not occupying the low blocks must remain behind the three-point line and above the free throw line extended, without crossing the line until the ball has left the shooter’s hand.

During the free throw attempt, all players must follow certain restrictions:

  • Players on the low blocks cannot enter the lane until the ball leaves the shooter’s hand.
  • Players behind the three-point line and the free throw line extended cannot cross the line until the ball has touched the rim.
  • Free throw shooter must release the ball within 10 seconds and cannot cross the free throw line until the ball has touched the rim.