Basketball Free Throws

In basketball, free throws are penalty shots given to the team that the foul was committed against. Free throws are different from field goals in a few ways. A field goal may be worth 2 or 3 points, but a free throw is always worth 1 point. The shot is always taken from the free throw line, and no one is allowed to contest the shot. Free throws are also commonly known as foul shots.

Free Throw Line

All free throws happen on a team's respective free throw line, which is part of the key. The free throw line is 12 feet wide, 19 feet from the baseline and 15 feet from the backboard. The free throw line also forms the elbows as they intersect with the rest of the key.

Basketball Free Throw Line

REMEMBER: Free throws are also called a foul shots and the free throw line is also called the foul line.

Types Of Free Throws

If a player is fouled, they are awarded free throws. The amount of shots they get to take depends on how and where they were fouled.

Common Fouls

Common fouls include most of the basic penalties in basketball, including shooting, blocking, and charging. However, fouls are awarded differently depending on the situation. If a shooting foul is awarded on a 3 point shot, the offense gets 3 free throws, and if a shooting foul is awarded on a 2 point shot, then the offense gets 2 free throws. If any other common foul is given, free throws may or may not be given, based on if the team is in the bonus, also known as the penalty situation. If a team is in the bonus, they will receive free throws, and if they aren't the ball will be inbounded by the team that was fouled.

IMPORTANT: Different leagues have very different rules for how the penalty situation works. You will learn more about the different scenarios later.

Technical Fouls

Technical fouls are not based on physical contact like the rest of the fouls. You can be given a technical foul for anything the referees decide is an 'unsportsmanlike act', like arguing a call or swearing at another player or referee. Unlike other personal fouls, technicals can be given to players or coaches. The result of committing a technical foul is 1 free throw for the opposing team. Whether the free throw shooter makes the free throw or not, the team that was fouled retains possession of the ball.

Flagrant Fouls

Flagrant fouls are grouped into 2 categories. Both result in 2 free throws for the team that was fouled and possession after the shots. Flagrant 1 fouls and flagrant 2 fouls. Flagrant 1 fouls are when a foul is considered 'unnecessary' to the discretion of the referees. Flagrant 2 fouls are considered 'unnecessary and dangerous' and result in the ejection of the player who committed the foul.

What Does A Free Throw Attempt Look Like?

Up to six players ine up along the borders of the lane and wait for the free throw shooter to shoot their free throws. Four of these players from the opposing team and two from the free throw shooter's team. All other players on both teams must remain behind the three point line. Each of the defensive players attempt to box out the offensive players from getting an offensive rebound.

Basketball Free Throw Attempt

Once the free throw shooter is in place behind the free throw line, he will get the ball from the referee to take the free throw. The free throw shooter has 10 seconds to shoot each free throw. Three things can happen on a free throw attempt:

  • The free throw is made. 1 point is awarded to that player's team. If it is the final free throw for the shooter, the ball is inbounded by the other team and the game continues.
  • The free throw misses. If it is the players last free throw attempt, the ball is live and anyone can try and rebound it. Usually defensive players have the edge because they get to be positioned closer to the basket.
  • There is a lane violation. A lane violation occurs if a player on either offense or defense crosses the line into the painted area before the free throw is released. If someone on the offense commits a lane violation, then the ball is turned over. If someone on the defense commits a lane violation, the shot is retaken.

Basketball Penalty Situation

As the game goes on, fouls by each team are counted and when a team commits a certain number of fouls, they will be in the bonus. When a team is in a penalty situation, also known as the bonus, they receive free throws as a result of the other team committing common fouls, even if the foul is not a shooting foul. However, the rules for the penalty situation are completely different in all basketball leagues.

In college basketball, there are two penalty situations:

  1. One and one
  2. Double bonus

In the NBA, there is only one penalty situation, called the bonus.

College Basketball One And One

One and one in college basketball is a penalty situation that grants a team one free throw and an additional free throw if the free throw shooter makes the first one in. A one and one is given when the opposing team reaches 7 fouls in a single half.

You can learn more about the one and one in Basketball One And One.

College Basketball Double Bonus

The double bonus is a penalty situation only in college basketball that gives a team two free throw attempts every time a personal foul is committed. The double bonus only happens when a team commits 10 or more fouls in a single half.

You can learn more about the double bonus in Basketball Double Bonus.

NBA Basketball Bonus

The bonus in the NBA is a penalty situation that happens when a team reaches 5 fouls in a single quarter. When a team is in the bonus, they get two free throws.

You can learn more about the bonus in Basketball Bonus.

Substitute Free Throw Shooter

A substitute free throw shooter can take the place of the original free throw shooter if he is injured on the play, such as after a flagrant foul. The head coach can choose one of the other four players on the floor as a substitute free throw shooter. If a player is substituted out for a free throw, they are not allowed to come back into the game.

Basketball Substitution

Basketball Free Throw Percentage

A free throw percentage in basketball is a statistic that keeps track of a player's success rate during a season on shooting free throws. To calculate a player's free throw percentage, just divide the number of made free throws by the total amount of free throws attempted. The higher the free throw percentage, the better the player is at making free throws. Free throw shooting is a tell-tale of players having good focus, as well as consistent shooting form.