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Breaking Down How LeBron James Has Improved His Free Throw Stroke

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Breaking Down How LeBron James Has Improved His Free Throw Stroke

LeBron James struggled with free throws early in the season, to the point where Heat Index writer Brian Windhorst wrote an extensive piece on his issues at the line. Windhorst stated: 

"Perhaps this slide won’t even be remembered when the spring comes. But with the quarter mark of the season in sight there is no doubt it is becoming an issue, one James will probably have to address."

Back on December 6, when Windhorst typed the piece, James was shooting a smidge under 65 percent from the stripe. LeBron is now up to a .738 free-throw percentage, a shade under his .746 career average. Since the piece was written, James has shot .805 from the line. 

Now, you could attribute the upswing in LeBron James' free-throw percentage to a mean regression. Sometimes, these are just the random swings that can happen during a season. I, however, believe that James is reaping the rewards of an altered technique. 

Here's a fairly standard miss from LeBron, back when he was going through his early season free-throw struggles. We're starting from his mid-form with the clip, because the change comes in how he finishes: 

Notice how LeBron is standing straight up while he follows through. I can't find anything technically wrong with his stroke, but take a look at how he's changed it during his better stretch of free-throw accuracy. I slow-motioned James' follow through: 

LeBron is leaning forward as he releases, allowing his release to be closer to the hoop. The farther from the hoop a player is, the more he tends to miss. When the NBA moved the three-point line in, back in the mid-90s, Steve Kerr responded with three consecutive seasons of making over half his threes. 

LeBron is taking advantage of how no one contests a free throw, and falling towards the basket. It might be hard to maintain form as you stretch towards the hoop, but James appears to be managing. 

I asked around, and LeBron has occasionally adopted the "forward fall" technique in the past. Given the results lately, it's a wonder as to why he ever deviates from it. So long as he isn't getting called for lane violations, the falling free throw makes LeBron's forays into the lane all the more valuable.

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