Hack-A-Shaq, Revisited: Top 20 Worst Free Throw Shooters in NBA History
Free throws—the bane of big men everywhere.
Don Nelson—then coach of the Dallas Mavericks—created the Hack-A-Shaq defensive strategy in the late 90's. Initially created with Dennis Rodman in mind, it eventually became synonymous with Shaquille O'Neal.
Don Nelson saw the potential in exploiting the off ball foul rule while game planning against the Chicago Bulls. Its aim was to limit a team's points per possession by forcing the team's worst free throw shooter—Dennis Rodman—to go to the line. Thus, the Hack-A-Rodman came to fruition.
After failing to have any effect on Rodman during a 1997 bout between the Bulls and Mavericks, the strategy was shelved off. It wasn't until two years later that Nelson would once again use the tactic—but with Shaq as the mark.
This would berth a new era in defensive ploys used against big men. It has since become a popular option for coaches to turn to when facing a team with a poor free throw shooter.
Honorable Mention: Dennis Rodman
Career FT%: 58.4% (1069 FTM / 1832 FTA)
Just missing the cut is Dennis Rodman.
Aside from being a Hall of Fame talent, he deserves being mentioned for the sole reason that the Hack-A-Shaq strategy started with him. Of course it helps that he does deserve to be mentioned for his incompetence while shooting free throws.
If there was a catchier name to rhyme with Rodman and it was effective at the time of its use, the title would be his. He's lucky to have escaped that honor.
Not that he hasn't already done anything that would hurt his reputation and legacy.
20. Will Perdue
Career FT%: 57.7% (705 FTM / 1222 FTA)
Will was drafted by the Bulls in 1988. He went on to win three championships playing alongside Michael Jordan.
Perdue should thank Jordan for getting him those rings, as they help to overshadow his poor shooting from the charity stripe.
He would be traded after the 1994-95 season to the Spurs in a deal for Dennis Rodman—a brother in the losing fight against free throws.
19. Bruce Bowen
Career FT%: 57.5% (582 FTM / 1013 FTA)
Bruce Bowen just barely reaches the 1,000 free throw attempt criteria for this list.
Known for his defense—a dirty defender at that—Bowen was ignored offensively for his career. His only real asset on the offensive end was the corner three. Even then he was only expected to have any sort of success in that spot when he was wide open.
One would imagine that a player with three-point range on his shot—even if only from two spots on the court—would be able to hit a standing shot with plenty of time and no one charging at him, hand in face.
Bruise-A-Bowen eventually branched off from Hack-A-Shaq and stuck with Bruce as rival coaches turned to it often.
Ironic, since the coach he played for the longest was known to use the Hack-A-Shaq frequently with effective results.
18. Toby Kimball
Career FT%: 57.3% (704 FTM / 1229 FTA)
This severely undersized power forward was drafted out of UConn by the Boston Celtics.
Throughout his 10-year career he managed to rack up enough misses at the line to be listed as one of the worst offenders in NBA history.
17. Tom Hawkins
Career FT%: 57% (1150 FTM / 2016 FTA)
Drafted out of Notre Dame, Tom would go on to play for the Lakers—initially of Minneapolis—for the majority of his career.
During a productive 10-year career as an NBA forward, Tom managed to miss nearly 1,000 free throws. He missed almost as many free throws as it took to get on this list.
16. Greg Ostertag
Career FT%: 56.9% (833 FTM / 1465 FTA)
Originally drafted to the Utah Jazz, he was a staple on the team for most of his career.
At one point Ostertag was joined on the Jazz by another player on this list. They will go on to challenge another duo for their incompetency at the line.
This pudgy center was a true behemoth. Standing at 7'2", his main contributions as a player came from rebounding the ball, blocking shots, and missing free throws when called upon.
Perhaps his strong resemblance to Sloth from The Goonies is how he'll best be remembered.
15. Mark West
Career FT%: 56.8% (1203 FTM / 2117 FTA)
Mark West may be best known for helping the US National Team win a silver medal during the 1982 FIBA World Championship.
Second to that is being one of the worst free throw shooters during his 17-year NBA span.
14. Ken Norman
Career FT%: 56.7% (1012 FTM / 1786 FTA)
After being drafted by the Clippers and spending most of his years there, he would end his 10-year career as a member of the Hawks.
Ken was dubbed the Snake and Snake Norman as a kid. He earned the nickname for being an elusive figure.
Perhaps it also alluded to the manner in which his free throws managed to avoid going in.
13. Dale Davis
Career FT%: 56.2% (1522 FTM / 2708 FTA)
Playing for the Pacers for the majority of his career, Dale carved out a solid 17 years in the NBA.
Aside from making this list, Davis also sports a playoff record low. He is second behind Ben Wallace in lowest free throw percentage shot in a single postseason. He went 11-36 during the 1994 playoffs shooting 30.6 percent.
At one point he even joined Ben Wallace on the Pistons, forming arguably the worst free throw shooting duo ever.
12. Bill Russell
Career FT%: 56.1% (3148 FTM / 5614 FTA)
Considered by many to be the greatest winner ever, Bill fought a losing battle against free throws.
Prominent among his many skills was his near unmatched defensive prowess.
Offense was another story. Even though he was not considered to be inept, it was not his strong suit.
With nearly 2,500 career free throw misses, this mark puts him in a special category of players. Luckily his storied career rests on his defensive laurels and will to win at all costs.
11. Greg Anderson
Career FT%: 55.7% (929 FTM / 1668 FTA)
After a solid stint playing collegiate basketball, Greg was selected in the 1987 draft by the Spurs.
Perhaps better known by his nickname Cadillac, his troubles at the free throw line were equally famous.
Not to mention he has a face that could be listed on an ugliest NBA players of all time list.
10. John M. Green
Career FT%: 55.3% (2335 FTM / 4226 FTA)
John Green was a 6'5" forward/center who played in the NBA when the league was still split with the ABA.
Over his 14-year career, he played on half a dozen teams. Most of that time was spent on the New York Knickerbockers.
No matter where he went, he could be expected to always do one thing—miss free throws and miss quite a lot. He is one of several players to have missed nearly 2,000 free throw attempts over the course of his career.
9. Olden Polynice
Career FT%: 53.5% (1146 FTM / 2141 FTA)
Olden will perhaps best be known for being traded to the Seattle SuperSonics in a draft day trade with the Bulls for Scottie Pippen.
Clearly a colossal mistake.
This gaffe on the part of the SuperSonics will help many ignore his incredibly poor free throw shooting when referring to him. Squeaking into the top 10 of worst free throw shooters of all time, he can have some solace in the knowledge that is not the defining aspect of his career.
8. Larry Smith
Career FT%: 53.1% (866 FTM / 1630 FTA)
Larry was nicknamed Mr. Mean and had a face to match. He earned this nickname through his tenacious rebounding. Smith is also considered to be one of the greatest offensive rebounding forwards to ever play.
Coming in at 6'8", he was undersized as a forward and even more out of place when he was slotted in the center position.
Like most other players on this list, he too had a very subpar offense.
His worst fault was easily his free throw shooting.
7. Shaquille O'Neal
Career FT%: 52.7% (5862 FTM / 11121 FTA)
While Shaq's woes at the line are infamous, he isn't the worst of the bunch. His high profile makes him an easier target of ridicule. However, the fact that the strategy used against him was named after him speaks volumes for his ineptitude.
He has always told his critics that he makes them when it counts. While he has made some big free throws during his illustrious career, they do not overshadow all the misses.
Shaq's stubbornness has kept him from truly ever improving his free throw shot.
Arguably one of the worst forms when at the line, his shot resembles more of a floater than anything else.
O'Neal has tried numerous variations of his foul shot and they have all failed. Whether it was a high arc or push shot, the results were always usually the same—ugly.
6. Reggie Evans
Career FT%: 52.5% (745 FTM / 1428 FTA)
Reggie is stuck with the task of replacing Chris Bosh in Toronto.
More famous for his ball grabbing incident with Chris Kaman, this forward is just slightly worse than Shaq in the free throw department.
While he hasn't approached The Diesel's free throw attempts, Reggie has a steadily declining free throw percentage, raising serious concerns over whether or not he will drop even lower on this list.
5. Bo Outlaw
Career FT%: 52.1% (957 FTM / 1837 FTA)
Bo Outlaw is a journeyman NBA forward. He spent most of his time with the Orlando Magic.
Outlaw was renowned for being an unrelenting defender, supreme athlete, and an abysmal free throw shooter.
During his 15-year career, Bo actually got better as a free throw shooter—he progressively increased his free throw percentage over the years.
Even so, he managed to shoot free throws at a rate worse than the likes of Shaq.
4. Andris Biedrins
Career FT%: 51.9% (367 FTM / 707 FTA)
When determining the criteria for this list, a minimum of at least 1,000 free throw attempts was set to determine those worthy of making it. With that being said, Biedrins is the exception to the rule.
Playing for the very man that created the Hack-A-Shaq, Biedrins has been nothing short of awful at the line.
He's so bad that Don Nelson once suggested that he shoot free throws underhand—a suggestion that Andris didn't take too kindly. While Rick Barry would have been proud, the Latvian took it as an insult.
However, Nelson may have had something with the suggestion. While it may look comical when used in the NBA, when you are hitting your free throws, does it really matter?
Andris peaked at a respectable—for Biedrins—62 percent two years ago. Since then, his numbers have been in a free fall, hitting a 16 percent low last season.
Maybe he needs to spend less time gelling his hair before games and practicing free throws instead.
3. Wilt Chamberlain
Career FT%: 51.5% (6057 FTM / 11862 FTA)
Wilt tried to do everything larger than life—points scored in a single game, points averaged for a single season, the amount of women he slept with, and free throws missed.
Well, I wouldn't say that he tried to miss his free throws, but with the way he shot them, it certainly seemed like he did.
He had a very nonchalant push motion with a high arc, almost like a shot put. He didn't even attempt to aim his shots. Chamberlain would pretty much take the ball and point it in the general direction of the rim and launch it.
Wilt has missed more free throws in his career than most people have ever even attempted. It didn't help that his free throw percentage regressed significantly over the course of his career. A lot of his trips to the line were in part to him being an easy target to foul.
The Hack-A-Shaq method has roots that go all the way back to the 1960's.
A similar strategy was employed against The Big Dipper himself—albeit one that looked more like a children's game than a strategy used in the NBA. Due to a lack of league rules in this area, players without possession of the ball could be fouled and sent to the charity stripe. End game situations became games of tag as Wilt foolishly attempted to avoid contact by the opposing team.
To combat this, the powers that be instated the off ball rule. During the last two minutes of a game, if an off the ball foul was committed, the team would get free throw shots and possession of the ball. This new mandate forced teams to foul only the player in control of the ball.
It helped Wilt avoid further embarrassment and even more misses as it forced teams to play him straight up at the end of games.
2. Chris Dudley
Career FT%: 45.8% (691 FTM / 1508 FTA)
Chris Dudley had a solid career in the NBA. Good teammate, player, and person, but a horrendous free throw shooter.
He holds two notable free throw shooting records, both of them terrible to have associated with your name.
Chris is the only player to miss five straight foul shots in a single trip. Numerous lane violations allowed him extra shots, each of which he missed.
Dudley also, at one time, missed 13 straight free throw attempts in a single game.
Chris joins the next player in an exclusive club, being only one of two players on this list to shoot under 50 percent for their career. A special tier for those bad enough to reach it.
1. Ben Wallace
Career FT%: 41.7% (1074 FTM / 2575 FTA)
Ben Wallace gets the undesirable distinction of being the single worst free throw shooter in the history of the NBA.
With small hands—when compared to his body—nearly incapable of palming the basketball, his career in shooting was troubled from the start.
His terrible form only made things worse.
Watching Ben shoot free throws can be painful at times. Air balls are a common occurrence, and so are lane violations.
Over time, Whack-A-Wallace was born. Unlike Shaq, who supposedly made them when it counted, you never really knew what you were going to get from him—or not—on any given night. He may hit a couple or nothing at all.
Congratulations Ben. At least you are No. 1 in something.