Damon Stoudamire before his season ending injury shot 85.5% from the free throw line. Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images
So how did Grizzlies point guard Damon Stoudamire become one of the NBA’s best free throw shooters? Easy. Repetition, and a little extra incentive. “(It took) A lot of work, and losing a lot of dollars when I was young to my high school coach. He used to bet me a dollar that he could outshoot me in free throws, so that’s how that all came about,” says Stoudamire. “When I got to the pros he tried to up the ante. He still paid me the same amount but he tried to up my ante, so that’s when I started to beat him.” Stoudamire leads the Grizzlies in free throw percentage, and shot a career-high 91.5% from the stripe last season, missing just 17 of his 199 attempts as he finished fourth in the NBA. His career percentage is over 83%.
Like many players, he said free throw shooting is primarily a mental exercise, and Stoudamire explained his success. “Routine, routine, routine,” he says. “For me, the routine is right foot up to the line, catch the ball with the right hand, touch the butt and wipe the sweat off with the left hand, put the ball in the left hand, do the same thing with the right hand, three dribbles, spin the ball, catch it on the seam, not on the air hole, then follow through.” It’s a laundry list of movements he has to go through before taking each shot, but it’s a process Stoudamire perfected as he got older. “I went through a lot (of motions). In high school I was an inconsistent shooter,” he says. “Then, what happened was as I got to college and the pros I got more free throw attempts, so I had to take my time a little more and I was always shooting technicals and things of that nature so I got a better routine, better breathing pattern and everything’s been working out for me.”