There are two ways that a team can be in the penalty:

1. Each team is allowed to commit four fouls in each quarter with no penalty. On the fifth team foul committed that quarter, that team is in the penalty.

2. The penalty situation also occurs if a team commits more than one foul in the last two minutes of a quarter. If a team has not committed any fouls and there are less than two minutes remaining in the quarter, they are in the penalty as soon as they commit their second foul.

Iverson
Allen Iverson shoots a free throw for Philly.
(NBAE Photos)

There are three reasons why a player will shoot a free throw after being fouled:

1. If he is fouled and the other team is in the penalty, then he shoots two free throws (one free throw attempt plus one penalty free throw attempt).

2. Every time a player is fouled in the act of shooting the ball, he will be awarded with two free throws, regardless of whether or not the team is in the penalty situation. This sometimes is referred to as a shooting foul. If the player attempting a shot is outside the three-point line and is fouled, he will be awarded three free throws.

3. If contact committed against a player is interpreted as unnecessary or excessive (a flagrant foul) the offended player is awarded two free throws. The offender gets one personal foul and his team is charged with a team foul.

If a player doesn't shoot a free throw after being fouled, then the opponent is not in the penalty, or he didn't get fouled while in the act of shooting, or it was not a flagrant foul.

During the 1995-1996 playoffs, opposing teams utilized the "Hack-A-Shaq" defense to neutralize the dominant play of Shaquille O'Neal, at that time, the centre of the Orlando Magic. At the end of close games, coach Phil Jackson, then of the Chicago Bulls, would have his "three-headed centre" (Luc Longley, John Salley and Bill Wennington) use their eighteen fouls to purposely foul O'Neal when he was in the act of shooting in order to send him to the foul line. Shaq shot poorly from the foul line, making only 39 per cent of his free throws during this playoff run. The Magic succumbed to the eventual champion Chicago Bulls in a four game sweep.

Basketball U Defenders were wise not to foul Jeff Hornacek formerly of the Utah Jazz. Over his fourteen-year career, Hornacek made over 87 per cent of his free throw attempts.

Calvin Murphy of the Houston Rockets has the highest free throw percentage over one season, making 206 of 215 in 1980-1981, a 95.8 per cent average.