Free Throws Remain Shaquille O’Neal’s Only Kryptonite

Free Throws Remain Shaquille O'Neal's Only Kryptonite Shaquille O’Neal
is big enough to back down any defender, tall enough to dunk over anybody and funny enough to say what he wants.

But the man cannot shoot free throws.

After 18 seasons in the league, Shaq ranks as one of the worst free-throw shooters in NBA history.

His 52.7 percent clip from the charity stripe, however, isn’t even close to Ben Wallace’s all-time atrocity of 41.4 percent.

Yet, while Shaq isn’t the worst, he is far from the best. He has eclipsed the 60 percent mark in just one season (2002-03), and the Big Diesel reached an absolute low point in December 2000 when he was sinking only 38 percent of his free throws.

Opposing teams took notice.

Trying to stop Shaq from scoring in his prime was like trying to go the speed limit on the Mass Pike: impossible. So Hack-a-Shaq was brought to the NBA. By blatantly fouling the big man every time he touched the ball or took a shot, teams traded an almost surefire bucket for at least one likely miss from the free-throw line.

It reached its pinnacle during the 2000 playoffs. During the Lakers’ seven-game series against the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals, Shaq was sent to the free-throw line an astounding 99 times. He was at his best, though, sinking 60 of them — including a 9-for-9 night in Game 4 — to operate at slightly above 60 percent from the line.

Watching how it likely got Portland to seven games, the Indiana Pacers also adopted the Hack-a-Shaq strategy in the 2000 NBA Finals. The Pacers only lasted six games before the Lakers, clearly led by O’Neal’s 38 points per game, took the title. In the series, however, Shaq attempted 93 free throws but made just 36, averaging 38.7 percent.

Shaq finally grew tired of being asked about his awful results from the line and told reporters in 2003, “I don’t care about my [free-throw shooting] percentages. I make them when they count.”

To a point, he’s right. After all, even when he couldn’t hit 40 percent of them, he still led his team to an NBA championship. Then again, a coach would foul any NBA player who consistently shoots free throws like this. will showcase one Moment of Shaq every day until the Celtics open the season against the Heat on Oct. 26 at the TD Garden.

Friday, Aug. 6: Boston is buzzing about Shaq.

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

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