What Is Hack-a-Shaq In Basketball?

What Is Hack a Shaq In Basketball

Have you ever seen a play during a basketball game where a player on one team will intentionally foul another player on the opposing team, typically a player that is a poor shooter at the free-throw line? This play is called the “Hack-a-Shaq” and is one that has been utilized in many instances. Read on to learn more about this technique in basketball.

What is “Hack-a-Shaq”?

“Hack-a-Shaq” is a tactic used in basketball games where the team on defense will intentionally foul the worst free-throw shooter on the opposing team. The strategy of intentionally fouling the opposing team will typically be used towards the end of close games by the team that is losing for two main reasons: 1) they will foul the opposing team in the hopes that the player shooting the free throws will miss; 2) by fouling the opposing team, the losing team is able to stop the clock and have more offensive opportunities to tie or win the game.

However, this strategy has been largely exploited and used to a larger extent by teams throughout the course of an entire game. Because of this, the modern-day “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy will typically involve a player, who could foul out and have little impact on the team’s overall success, coming into the game with the sole objective of fouling the opposing team’s worst free-throw shooter. The name “Hack-a-Shaq” was given after the strategy was extensively used against Shaquille O’Neal, one of the greatest players in NBA history whose biggest weakness was free-throw shooting.

Origins of Hack-a-Shaq

The origins of the modern-day “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy is credited to Don Nelson, head coach of the Dallas Mavericks from 1997 to 2005. On December 29, 1997, the Dallas Mavericks were playing against the Chicago Bulls, who had Dennis Rodman as one of their players. In an effort to limit their scoring and gain possession of the ball quickly, Coach Nelson was determined to exploit one of the Bulls’ greatest weaknesses: Rodman’s horrendous 38.6 free-throw shooting percentage. To do so, he tasked Mavericks rookie Bubba Wells to intentionally foul Rodman whenever he could in order to send him to the free-throw line. This resulted in Wells playing only three minutes before fouling out, which set the all-time NBA record for the least minutes played before fouling out. Although the plan resulted in Rodman hitting nine of his twelve free throws and the Mavericks losing the game, the strategy implemented in this 1997 matchup set a precedent for the use of this tactic in future NBA games. 

“Hack-a-Shaq” Rules in Today’s NBA

The “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy has received a lot of criticism, as people have claimed that the large number of intentional fouls unnecessarily increases the length of games, makes the games less interesting and fun to watch, and seemed to violate the spirit of the game of basketball where free throws, originally meant to discourage fouls, were in fact encouraging them. The number of fouls had dramatically increased in previous seasons, largely due to the “hack-a-shaq” strategy. In the 2013-2014 season, there were 115 off-ball fouls. In the 2014-2015 season, there were 179 off-ball fouls. In the 2015-2016 season, the number of intentional off-ball fouls increased to 420.

To limit the number of intentional fouls, the NBA implemented new rules during the 2016-2017 season. For example, in prior seasons, when a player was intentionally fouled away from the ball in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter or any overtime period, they were awarded one free throw and their team would retain possession of the ball. This rule was extended to cover the last two minutes of each quarter.