As the poet / philosopher duo Matt Stone and Trey Parker once wrote: Freedom isn't free. No, there's a hefty fucking fee. And if you don't throw in your buck oh five, who will?
The NBA equivalent to the $1.05 they were talking about is practicing free throws. Some guys like Ray Allen do it. Others...don't. Here are my personal picks for the worst of the "don'ts."
The Winner: Chris Dudley
Christen Guilford Dudley once said: "So I wasn't good at free throws. Neither is Shaq. So really, you could describe my game as Shaq-esque." Based on how Shaq treated Dudley when they played against each other, it's probably a good thing Chris uttered this quote after retirement.
Dudley's career free throw percentage of 45.8 isn't the lowest among the players in this list. So why does Dudders rank first among my worsts? It's not simply because he 817 of 1,508 freebies over his (gulp!) 15-year career. What sets Dudley apart are some of his dubious fouls shooting accomplishments.
For instance, according to his NBA.com bio: "On April 14, 1990, he missed 17 of 18 free throws in a 124-113 loss to the Indiana Pacers. In that game he broke Wilt Chamberlain s NBA record by missing 13 straight free throws, one of them an airball. Dudley wound up with a league-worst .319 free-throw percentage."
Yep: 1-for-18 with 13 consecutive misses. Here's the box score.
But you know what? When that most bawful of charity stripe performances happened, it was only the second-worst free throw shooting moment of Dudley's career. From SportCenter's This Day In Sports:
January 29, 1989 — Cavs center Chris Dudley stepped to the free throw line and did something no one in the NBA had ever done. And that wasn't a good thing. Dudley, a celebrated defender, rebounder and shot-blocker, was a somewhat below-average free throw shooter. OK, he was a somewhat awful free throw shooter, with a career average of 45.8 percent, which is better than Ben Wallace but worse than Shaq. But in a January game against the Washington Bullets, he took poor free throw shooting to a new level.
Dudley got fouled, stepped to the line and missed both shots. NBD. But the ref called a lane violation on a Bullets guard, so Dudley shot a third. Which he missed. Another lane violation (this one by Bullets center Dave Feitl) brought another attempt and another miss (that's four for those counting at home). Amazingly, Feitl was called for another lane violation. And amazingly, Dudley missed his fifth and final (of the series) free throw attempt, becoming the first player to miss five free throws in one trip.
The bottom line is that when Dudley went to the line, the results were like jamming your hand into a running blender. You knew something bad was going to happen, but the variations of horror were nearly limitless.
The Runners Up: Ben Wallace, Shaq, Wilt Chamberlain
How did Big Ben miss out on the top spot? Well, for starters, he actually made significant non-foul shooting contributions to a Pistons team that made two NBA Finals and won a title. He also doesn't hold the two amazing records Dudley has.
Still, Ben earning top Worst Evers honors wouldn't have been a traveshamockery. After all, his lifetime FT% of 41.7 was accomplished by missing 1,501 of his 2,575 career FT attempts. It got to the point where NBA arenas started seriously considering handing out crash helmets and safety goggles to every fan sitting in the 100 level seats when Wallace came to town just to reduce their liability.
When last we saw Big Ben, he was going 1-for-9 from the free throw line, which included consecutive airballs. Last night, he went 0-for-5. But it's even worse than that.
With just over a minute left, Paul Pierce seemingly committed a foul on Pistons rookie Jonas Jerebko. Only the Celtics bitched and bitched until the refs sent Wallace to the line instead. He missed them both, obviously, and then left the game almost immediately with a "knee injury" (it's a shame he didn't claim flu-like symptoms.)
Wallace is now 2-for-20 from the line in Detroit's last five games. And opposing coaches have gone to the Hack-a-Ben strategy twice during that stretch.
Said Pistons coach John Kuester: "Ben has been in this league for a long time, and he knows that he has to work his way out of this. It's certainly not a question of effort -- he's the first one in the gym and the last one out. He hits 70 percent in practice, but he's got to go to the line and make them in the games."
I love it. First one to the gym and the last one out. I swear, every player is described like that these days. Guy must never leave practice. I hope Detroit's practice facility is filled with cots.
Okay, I lied about topping things off. Here's Big Ben airballing consecutive freebies...with the game on the line:
Click here for a funnier fan-made video of those misses.
Then there's Shaq. His career FT% of 52.7 seems almost ridiculously high compared to Dudley and Wallace. But he's sure got them in sheer volume. The Big Clanky has missed an astounding 5,259 foul shots (out of 11,121 attempts) in his 18 NBA seasons. That's more than most players ever get to take. For example, Shaq's former teammate Derek Fisher has only 2,200 career FTAs despite playing 1,028 games over 15 seasons. At this rate, Fish will retire having attempted fewer than half of the foul shots Shaq missed.
Shaq's inability to convert freebies have us one of the great quotes -- not to mention one of the greatest fallacies -- in NBA history:
"I don't care about my [free throw shooting] percentages. I keep telling everyone that I make them when they count." - Shaquille O'Neal, in post-game interviews recorded by WOAI-TV on November 7, 2003
In a larger sense, The Big Misfire's inaccuracy at the line gave us the immortal Hack-a-Shaq strategy. Not only is it memorable, it can (and has been) transferred to other lousy foul shooters: Hack-a-Bowen, Hack-a-Dwight, Hack-a-Ben, etc.
Last but never, ever least, we have Wilt Chamberlain. Everything about this man was larger-than-life. Everybody knows about the 100-point and how he averaged 50 PPG during the 1961-62 season. And then there's the claim that he shagged 20,000 women. What people don't know is that, while he was still in the NBA, Wilt tried to miss one free throw for every woman he violated with what we have to assume was an enormous and terrifying penis.
The Big Dipper ranks second all-time in free throws attempted with 11,862. (Karl Malone is the all-time leader with 13,188, but he played four more seasons than The Stilt.) Unfortunately, Chamberlain ranks only 14th in free throws made with 6,057.
For those of you who enjoy simple math, that means Wilt had 5,805 clanks in 14 seasons. This means that even though he's played four more seasons than Wilt did, Shaq is still almost 600 missed FTs behind Chamberlain. Ouch.
Speaking of ouch, Wilt was such a turrible foul shooter that Chamberlain -- a true giant of a man -- was often forced to run away from players who were trying to intentionally foul him. And the NBA had to institute rules changes because of it:
Chamberlain was such a great player and dominant force that he would be certain to be on the floor in late-game situations if the score was close. However, he was such a poor free throw shooter (51% over his career) that if the opposition needed to employ intentional fouling late in the game, Chamberlain would always be that team's target. Just as the opposition was eager to send Chamberlain to the free throw line because of his ineptitude there, Chamberlain himself was reluctant to go for that same reason. This led to the spectacle of virtually an entire other contest being held away from the ball and almost completely outside of the basketball game being played, as Chamberlain essentially played a de facto game of tag with defenders, attempting to run from and dodge them as they chased him trying to foul him.
The NBA decided to address this undesirable situation by instituting a new rule regarding off-the-ball fouls—that is, committing a personal foul against an offensive player who neither has the ball nor is making an effort to obtain it. The new rule stated that if the defensive team commits an off-the-ball foul within the last two minutes of the game, the offensive team would be allowed to keep possession of the ball after the awarding of either one or two free throws. Since the entire reason for employing intentional fouling as a strategy was to quickly terminate the offensive team's possession, this new rule, when in effect, forced the team using intentional fouling to foul only the offensive player who had the ball. This brought an end to the need for Chamberlain, or any other poor free throw shooter, to play "hide and seek" with opposing defenders in intentional fouling situations.
"The reason they have that rule is that fouling someone off-the-ball looks foolish...Some of the funniest things I ever saw were players that used to chase [Wilt Chamberlain] like it was hide-and-seek. Wilt would run away from people, and the league changed the rule based on how silly that looked." - Pat Riley
So Wilt couldn't hit his freebies...so what? Chicks dug him.