On Sunday night, Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson interrupted Jimmy Butler's free-throw routine by going over defensive assignments and delaying the referee from giving Butler the ball before the Minnesota Timberwolves star could make his final attempt at the line with 6.2 seconds remaining and the Wolves trailing by a point.
Butler missed the free throw, and the Pistons went on to win, 100-97.
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Reggie Jackson got in Jimmy's head 😬 https://t.co/IMC8tsx4fp2017-11-20 02:30:19
Ahead of the Pistons playing the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night, superstar LeBron James said he was fully in favor of the trolling technique.
"I've done it before," James said, per Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. "I won a playoff series before doing that actually. So, I'm all for it."
Indeed, as Vardon noted, James got in the head of former Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas in Cleveland's first-round series against the team in 2007. The Wizards led by a point in overtime in Game 6 with 15.1 seconds on the clock when Arenas headed to the line.
Michael Lee of the Washington Post described at the time what followed:
"Arenas's first attempt bounded around the rim and he dropped his head in disbelief. Cavaliers star LeBron James walked up to him afterward, patted him on the chest and told him, 'If you miss both of those free throws, the game is over.'
Arenas didn't even acknowledge James, but he still looked distraught as he prepared to take his second shot—which was even more off, clanking off the back of the rim. 'That's something I would say,' Arenas said, laughing about James's attempt to jinx him. 'An 80 percent free throw shooter and you miss two. The basketball gods weren't with us in this series. We lose three games to game-winning shots.'"
Indeed, Damon Jones hit a game-winning shot on the other end and the Cavaliers won the game and took the series.
Free-throw distractions are a natural part of basketball, from opposing fans attempting to get in the heads of free-throw shooters to opponents playing mind games. Sometimes, the trolling tactics are subtle.
And sometimes they are overt.
Take, for instance, Toronto Raptors center Lucas Nogueira conveniently adjusting his uniform while Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors attempted a free throw in Jan. 2017:
Intentional distraction or not, it worked. 😂 https://t.co/7CkygLK9XH2017-1-6 02:24:46
And Butler hasn't been above playing mind games himself. Last season with the Chicago Bulls, he and Rajon Rondo would often try to involve themselves in the opposing team's customary dap between free throws.
Suffice it to say, all's fair in love, war and free throws.