If there’s one constant in the game throughout the years that is being coached at every level of the game from recreation teams to the NBA, it’s free throws. So who are the best free throw shooters ever?
To put it simply, if you get fouled while in the act of shooting, you go to what’s known as the “charity stripe”, the free throw line, to get “free throws” at the rim. The number of shots depends on where the foul took place and if you made the shot in the act of the foul or not (contributing to the “and-one”). Your team also gets to potentially shoot free throws when there’s a technical foul or flagrant foul and if the other team is in the penalty (they’ve amassed the total amount of fouls where from that point any foul leads to a free throw).
There’s your free throw 101 lesson. Now, step on up to where that nail is hammered into each court as a guideline of where to step up and…shoot.
Now, granted, not everyone’s skill is in free throw shooting. That’s okay. The Shaq‘s, the Ben Wallace‘s, the Dwight Howard‘s of the world are great at so many other aspects of the game that you get a pass for this one. And they literally got free passes to the line at times as teams would intentionally foul these dudes (aka the “hack-a-Shaq”) if in the penalty to send him to the free throw line as a strategy to get the ball back and hope he misses.
But there are certain NBA players whom you definitely don’t want to foul, where you’d be wise to not send them to the line because they’re basically automatic from the free throw line, a tried and true, classic hoops way to get points for your team. Sweet strokes, good follow through’s, and clutch in their veins no matter where the game’s at, these guys are:
The 20 Best Free Throw Shooters Ever
Take a wild guess who’s first.
Did you make your guess? Hint: he’s currently still in the league.
Cool, now carry on and take a free shot at reading through this list.
20 – Kyle Korver (87.69%)
Kyle Korver. You’d want him on your team as not only a guy who could hit clutch three’s but is a consummate teammate with character on and off the court. LeBron James recognized as Korver could space the floor for James to do his thing, and the duo was seemingly on team after team together. And throughout Korver’s successful career, from hitting three’s to being an All-Star, to three-point contests, another thing was certain in his game: he became one of the best free throw shooters in NBA history.
19 – Jeff Hornacek (87.7%)
Now a NBA coach, Hornacek can instill to his team how to shoot a good free throw as he’s got the experience and resumé to know what he’s talking about, becoming one of the best free throw shooters of all time during his playing days.
18 – Dirk Nowitzki (87.87%)
A theme you’ll notice on this list is all these guys are pretty much some of the best shooters in the game, whether from midrange or long range. Dirk Nowitzki is no exception. And that signature step-back fadeaway wasn’t the only tool in his game. The German and Dallas Maverick forward was clutch from the free throw line, as well.
17 – Khris Middleton (87.91%)
Ladies and gentlemen, the most recent NBA champion on this list, you have to feel happy for Khris Middleton. The Milwaukee Bucks bucket-getter, three-point maker, and NBA All-Star, Middleton made his way from not getting PT with the Pistons to making the most of his opportunity, becoming a force to be reckoned with alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo. The one-two punch, along with Jrue Holiday and company, helped Milwaukee take home the Larry O B this year. Oh, and Middleton’s incredible free throw shooting helped along the way.
16 – Kyrie Irving (88.08%)
Defenders gotta’ watch out when Kyrie’s coming their way. Irving can slice and dice through a defense then get to the rim. And you’re gonna’ want to defend carefully because if you foul him, including while he makes a bucket, he’ll get probably that free throw to sink and you’re left with an even bigger deficit to try and win against Kyrie and company (in this case with the Brooklyn Nets).
15 – Kevin Durant (88.26%)
K-D. A gold medalist of the recent Tokyo Olympics with Khris on this list, K-D and Khris’ free throws were a contributing factor to get Team USA gold. And, of course, in the NBA, Durant is one of the best shooters in the game from all spots on the floor. It’s been that way since he entered the league. And one of those spots on the floor, yes, includes the free throw line.
14 – Bill Sharman (88.31%)
A name you may or may not recognize on this list if you’re a recent NBA fan, Sharman shred the net usually when his name was called to shoot free throws. And get this: Sharman wasn’t only inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player, he also was as a coach. Sharman played his rookie season in Washington then a decade with the Boston Celtics. The shooting guard was a four-time NBA champion, eight-time All-Star, seven-time All-NBA team member, and the 1955 All-Star Game MVP.
13 – Larry Bird (88.57%)
Larry was legendary in the NBA. And the Lakers, Celtics NBA Finals rivalry was so big that there was a Broadway play named “Magic/Bird” and an album by Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed titled “Magic & Bird”. Larry’s known for his three’s and his winning. And don’t forget the free throws.
12 – Reggie Miller (88.77%)
Reggie Miller. The long-time Indiana Pacer guard, NBA champion, Hall of Famer, and three-point sharp-shooter, you may now recognize him from his NBA on TNT analyzing.
11 – Scott Skiles (88.91%)
Another coach on this list who knows a thing or two about coaching at the charity stripe, Scott Skiles shot almost 90 percent. Skiles also let it fly from beyond the arc, shooting a respectable 37.9% throughout his career, along with 48.5% overall from the field. And as you see from the above “Ball is Life” tweet, he once dished out 30 assists in game (which is an NBA record per Ball is Life).
10 – Calvin Murphy (89.16%)
Hall of Famer, All-Star, and 1970-71 All-Rookie team member, Murphy played his rookie year with the San Diego Rockets (yes, that used to be a team), then the rest of his career with the Houston Rockets (whom you know as the Rockets today). According to Sports Team History, the Rockets moved the franchise to Houston in 1971. That’d make Murphy’s rookie year the franchise’s last in San Diego, taking its talents from southern California to Texas.
9 – J.J. Redick (89.18%)
From his time at Duke to his time with that LA Clippers squad that also featured Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan, to his time with the 76’ers and Pelicans, and even more teams throughout his career, though there’s been a lot of moving and a lot of changes, a constant in his career is his free throw shooting. Oh, and his three-point shooting as I’m sure you were already aware of.
8 – Rick Barry (89.31%)
We’re getting closer to that 90-percent from the free throw line throughout the career. And coming in at number eight on this list is Rick Barry with a career 89.31% for his career from the line. And what makes this player unique is the way he shot the free throw: granny shot style. Yes, this was a thing! (Just watch this). And it worked for him, turning out to be one of the top 10 free throw shooters in NBA history. It was so effective, even his son shoots the classic and effective under-hand free throw shot, as well.
7- Damian Lillard (89.33%)
Just above Barry in career free throw-percentage is Dame Dolla. Damian Lillard hits clutch bucket after bucket with the Portland Trail Blazers and when it’s his turn to step to the stripe, he’s likely to be clutch there, as well, just, you know, based on the percentages here.
6 – Ray Allen (89.39%)
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and company were glad to have Ray Allen on their team with the Heat, even if it was for that one clutch corner 3 you may remember to help them eventually win that NBA Finals series over the San Antonio Spurs. And throughout his career, not only could Allen knock down that three, including from the corner, he also was one of the best to do it from that center spot on the court at the top of the key.
5 – Chauncey Billups (89.4%)
Mr. Big Shot not only hit big shot after big shot as the Detroit Pistons point guard (including that one from almost halfcourt against the Nets in a playoffs series) to help his team win the NBA Finals and multiple Eastern Conference finals, he also was their go-to free throw shooter. Not bad to have a top-5 free throw shooter in NBA history on your team who would also be the NBA Finals MVP. Detroit vs everybody!
4 – Peja Stojaković (89.48%)
The Croatian, NBA champion, three-time All-Star, 2004 All-NBA team member, and long-time Sacramento Kings forward could shoot the three-ball with the best of ’em. Stojaković could also get it done with literally the best of them in NBA history from the free throw line.
3 – Mark Price (90.39%)
Ladies and gentlemen, not only have you made it to the top three best free throw shooters in NBA history, you’ve also made it to the upper-echelon of free throw shooters: the only three players in the league’s history to shoot it from 90-percent (that’s from their overall career numbers) from the free-throw line. You heard that right, 90-percent. If the game was a big test over their career, they’d be the only three to get an A from this aspect of the game. So, you already know, these three are in a class of their own. Starting out with Mark Price who was money from the free-throw line, shooting 90.39 percent.
2 – Steve Nash (90.43%)
Now we’ve gotten to another aspect of the list, two NBA MVP’s who could shoot the lights out from the free throw line, starting with Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, and LA Lakers point guard Steve Nash. Nash shot a career 90.43% from the stripe. The Canadian knew how to ball out. If this were hockey (as is a popular sport in the country), this would be equivalent to a penalty shot. And in this basketball-version of the free shot, Nash was one of the best in the game.
1 – Stephen Curry (90.69%)
And last but certainly not least, Steph Curry. Shooting a career almost-91-percent, at the rate this NBA MVP is playing (who almost had himself another MVP last season), the free throw rate could go up even higher. When you think three’s, you think Steph. Curry helped change the game, doing it the right way. With character, integrity, hard work, and faith. Now, when you think free throw’s, you better think Steph. ‘Cause he’s the best free throw shooter (and really, shooter period) in NBA history.
There you have it, folks. You made it through the list. Congrats!
But as you know, in life, nothing’s ever free (except for Christ’s grace given freely thankfully). You gotta work hard to go get your dreams. Even these players I’m sure had to work at their craft to be consistent with the free throws. So, go be consistent at your craft, wherever you find yourself today and keep going. No matter what. You got this!
Charlie Lapastora is a sports/news multimedia journalist who’s reported, written, produced, anchored, shot video/edited on different NBC, ABC, and FOX shows in multiple TV markets, along with digital & new media companies. Charlie has traveled the country telling national sports, news, feature, and original stories on a cable news network, airing on top 10 TV markets, satellite radio, and digital platforms. He is passionate about his faith, family—being a husband to whom he calls the G.O.A.T. of women—about reppin’ his home state of Michigan and Detroit teams (yes, including the Lions), good coffee, and loves how sports brings people together. He’s traveled the world leading and coaching sports camps and has also worked at the Detroit Pistons and LA Clippers’ NBA teams.
- 1 The 20 Best Free Throw Shooters Ever
- 2 20 – Kyle Korver (87.69%)
- 3 19 – Jeff Hornacek (87.7%)
- 4 18 – Dirk Nowitzki (87.87%)
- 5 17 – Khris Middleton (87.91%)
- 6 16 – Kyrie Irving (88.08%)
- 7 15 – Kevin Durant (88.26%)
- 8 14 – Bill Sharman (88.31%)
- 9 13 – Larry Bird (88.57%)
- 10 12 – Reggie Miller (88.77%)
- 11 11 – Scott Skiles (88.91%)
- 12 10 – Calvin Murphy (89.16%)
- 13 9 – J.J. Redick (89.18%)
- 14 8 – Rick Barry (89.31%)
- 15 7- Damian Lillard (89.33%)
- 16 6 – Ray Allen (89.39%)
- 17 5 – Chauncey Billups (89.4%)
- 18 4 – Peja Stojaković (89.48%)
- 19 3 – Mark Price (90.39%)
- 20 2 – Steve Nash (90.43%)
- 21 1 – Stephen Curry (90.69%)
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