Which Pro Basketball Players Shoot Underhand?

Which Pro Basketball Players Shoot Underhand

The origin of the underhand shooting technique in basketball is not clear, and it is likely that multiple players and coaches have independently developed and popularized the technique over time. The underhand shot, also known as the "granny shot," has been used in basketball for many decades, but has become much less common in modern times. It is still sometimes used today as a free throw shooting technique. Read on to learn about which players shoot underhand and why.

Players That Shoot Underhand

The underhand shooting style has long been used in the game of basketball, most commonly for free throw attempts. Notable players that have utilized underhand shooting throughout their careers include Rick Barry, Wilt Chamberlain, Chinanu Onuaku, and more. Basketball players shoot free throws underhand because of the shot’s efficiency and accuracy, as it maximizes ball control and ensures a precise trajectory without fear of being blocked. By mastering this shooting technique, players can make free throws more effectively.

Rick Barry

Rick Barry is a former professional basketball player and is considered one of the greatest of all time. He played for several teams including the San Francisco Warriors, the Houston Rockets, and the Golden State Warriors, where he won the NBA championship in 1975.

Throughout his career, Barry was a ten-time All-Star and was known for his exceptional ball-handling skills and unorthodox but highly effective underhand shooting style. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987. After retiring from playing, he went on to have a successful coaching career, leading the Albany Patroons to a championship in the CBA in 1988. Rick Barry is widely recognized as one of the all-time greats in the sport of basketball.

Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain was one of the greatest basketball players of all time and he made many of his free throws using an underhanded technique. The most notable example of this was when he set the NBA’s record for most points scored by a player during a single game. During a 1962 matchup with the Philadelphia Warriors, Chamberlain scored 100 points for the Knicks and shot every one of his free throws underhanded. In the end, he scored 28 of the 32 free throws he attempted during that game, a testament to the increased accuracy of throwing underhand when there’s little chance to be blocked by an opposing player.

Chinanu Onuaku

Chinanu Onuaku is an American center and power forward currently playing for Hapoel Tel Aviv Basketball Club in the Israeli Basketball Premier League. He played for the Houston Rockets between 2016 and 2018. When Onuaku debuted in the league, he made headlines for shooting free throws underhand, something that had not been done in the NBA since Wilt Chamberlain.

Unlike his predecessor, the form did not translate to excellence, and Onuaku averaged less than 60% from the line. After his stint for the Rockets, he played in the NBA G League, followed by stints in professional leagues in Korea, Croatia, and Sardinia, before moving to Hapoel Tel Aviv in 2022.

Canyon Barry

Son of Rick Barry, Canyon Barry is a shooting guard for the Iowa Wolves in the NBA G League who shoots underhand. Barry first captured attention for his unique style of shooting free throws when he was in college, playing for the College of Charleston and Florida. Canyon learned the technique from his father, Rick, and decided to perfect it and use it in games in his father’s honor.

Barry set a record for consecutive free throws at Florida, making 42 straight shots using the underhand technique. Unfortunately, his excellence in shooting free throws has not boosted his professional career. Barry has spent time on two G League clubs as well as time in Czech National Basketball League, never making an NBA start.

The Science of an Underhand Shot

The trajectories of underhand shots are more efficient than those of overhand shots, and this is due to the increased range of motion allowed by the underhanded technique. Also, the force generated by the underhand shot is more evenly distributed across the entire body, which allows for greater accuracy. The underhand shot is the most effective method of shooting in professional basketball due to its efficient trajectories, increased range of motion, and even force distribution. However, due to the technique’s low release point and the time it takes to execute, it isn’t very practical aside from shooting free throws. This research has been incredibly influential in the field of basketball and has helped to shape the way the game is played today.

Pros and Cons of Shooting Underhand

Underhand shooting in professional basketball has been a topic of debate amongst players and coaches, with some believing that the shooting style can be beneficial and others believing that it can hurt a player’s performance. Underhand shooting can help players increase their accuracy and shooting percentage. 

In addition to increased accuracy, the underhand shooting style can also help players develop better form and technique. This can help reduce their chances of injury, as well as increase the amount of power behind their shot. However, the underhand shooting style can also lead to a decrease in speed and agility on the court, as players have to take more time to focus on their form. This can make it difficult for them to create separation from their opponents and make shots in quick succession. Underhand shooting techniques can help to increase the control of the ball, making it easier to make shots from further away. 

The main con of shooting underhand is that it takes significantly longer to shoot than an overhanded shot. For this reason, shooting underhand has almost entirely fallen out of fashion across all leagues, especially at the professional level. However, some NBA and WNBA players will occasionally shoot free throws with an underhanded style because there is no chance of an opposing player blocking their shot.