Liberal Arts Blog — Basketball Free Throw: The “Swish” The “Banked Shot,” and The “Granny Shot”

John Muresianu
5 min readDec 2, 2023

Liberal Arts Blog — Saturday is Sports, Dance, Fitness, and All Things Physical Day

Today’s Topic: Basketball Free Throw: the “swish” the “banked shot,” and the “granny shot”

When in your life have you in any sport made an observation with respect to the efficacy of a particular change in how you perform some critical movement? Did you ever experiment with different free throw techniques in basketball? With a different kind of serve or forehand in tennis? Did you ever do a little math and adopt the superior method?

Today, a few excerpts from that article on how fear of looking foolish prevents professional and amateur basketball players in the United States from adopting superior free throw technique widely adopted in Korea. A method that physics says is superior (allegedly).

Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. “Don’t aim for the rim. Aim for that big pain of tempered glass behind it.” (Johnny McDowell (above), aka “the Black Tank,” retired professional basketball player, veteran of the Korean Basketball League (KBL) and winner of multiple MVP awards there).

2. “The more I did it, the better I got.” (McDowell)

3. “The practice of bouncing free-throws off the backboard is unheard of in American basketball, where shooters universally aim for the swish.”

NB: “In the KBL, though, using the backboard from the charity stripe isn’t a novelty. It’s a staple of the game, popularised by an icon and supported by the statistics of those who make the shots at an 80-plus percent clip. The percentages and the physics behind them, suggest NBA players would do well to give it a (redirected) shot.”


1. ”The origins of the Korean bank-shot free throw trace back to Moon Kyung-eun — who, if he did not invent the method, certainly popularised it. Over a career spanning the 1990s and 2000s, Moon made his name as a marksman. His attempts tended to go in regardless of the build-up to them — whether he had set his feet or was flying around a screen, using the glass or arcing the ball straight through the rim.”

2. “The most identifiable and imitable quirk came at the foul line. Players have long used the backboard when facing the basket at an angle, but conventional wisdom had held that taking dead aim at the rim was best for a straight-on shot. Moon’s intuition led him to loft the ball high over the hoop, feather it off of the square outline painted onto the glass and watch it drop — nearly every time — through the net.”

3. “If he shot 100 free-throw bank shots, he would have a success rate of 100.%.” (Kim Tae-sul)

NB: “If you come in from a low angle, the rim — from the ball’s perspective — is a lot smaller. If you come from straight down, it’s as big as it can get, it’s a circle. That’s the big advantage of hitting it off the backboard, it increases that angle. It makes the rim bigger.” (Rhett Alain, physicist, Southeastern Louisiana University). Is this correct? Is there a simpler expanation? How about a Youtube video? A simple experiment to illustrate the point?

THE ANALOGY OF THE UNDERHANDED “GRANNY SHOT” OF RICK BARRY FROM THE 1960s and 1970S — psychology trumps physics

1. “The most notable attempt to disrupt the foul shot came in the 1960s and 70s, when Hall-of-Fame guard Rick Barry brought the underhanded “granny shot” to the NBA and ABA.”

2. “He made 90% of his free-throw attempts in the NBA and in the decades since his playing career has campaigned for current players to try his technique. (Wilt Chamberlain shot underhanded for a time, including during his record 100-point game in 1962,) His pleas have mostly fallen on deaf ears — an unwillingness Barry attributes to fear of looking foolish.”

3. I have always said that “fear of looking like an idiot is the greatest barrier to learning.” This phenomenon is most evident in the form of failing to ask a question for fear of sounding stupid and losing the respect of both your peers and/or your boss.

NB: “McDowell can relate to Barry’s frustrations. These days, the former KBL champion coaches the junior varsity team at his alma mater, Central High School in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Among his audience of teenagers, he’s yet to find any takers for the experiment that boosted his own hit rate years ago. “I would like to pass it along,” McDowell said, “But these kids aren’t interested.” In that way, they’re just like the pros.”

Remember: the greatest barrier to learning is fear of looking like an idiot.

NBA Stars, Fix Your Free Throws With One Easy Trick

Dissecting the Physics of Basketball Bank Shots


“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

My spin — then periodically review, re-rank, and exchange your list with those you love. I call this the “Orion Exchange” because seven is about as many as any human can digest at a time. Game?

For the last four years of posts organized by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


#1 A graphic guide to justice (9 metaphors on one page).

#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, (11/17/20)

#3 Israel-Palestine HandoutYOUR TURN

Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to sports, dance, fitness.

Or the coolest thing you learned about Sports, Dance, of Fitness in your life — whether on the field, on the dance floor or in the gym, whether from a coach, a parent, a friend, or just your own experimentation.

This is your chance to make some one else’s day. Or even change their life. It’s perhaps a chance to put into words something you have never articulated before. And to cement in your own memory something cool you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart.



John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.