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Rick Barry talks free throws, Dwight Howard, Shaq and Joakim Noah

The Los Angeles Lakers have lost eight games by a total of 65 points. Dwight Howard has missed 75 of his team-high 157 free throws. Do the math.

“How do you live with yourself if you can’t shoot 80 percent from the free-throw line,” said Hall of Famer Rick Barry, who underhanded his way to making 90 percent of his foul shots, third all time. “Think about it — you get to miss one out of every five.”

Barry was in Chicago on Thursday to speak at a lunch on behalf of the National Basketball Retired Players Association, a non-profit group of former players headquartered here that undertakes several philanthropic and charitable initiatives. Who better to have on your board of directors than the man who owned the “charity stripe” with his underhand toss?

Barry said he was close to helping Shaquille O’Neal when he was with the Lakers and struggling with his free throws.

“He would have won more titles; he would have been the go-to guy at the end of the game,” Barry said. “It would have been a joke how dominant he would have been.”

So why have we not seen an NBA player since Barry try the underhand method?

“I don’t understand why guys don’t want to do it,” he said. “Ego? When I was growing up, I would get teased because girls shot that way. Well, girls don’t shoot that way anymore.

“Why in the world would you not try anything humanly possible to make a higher percentage of free throws? It’s the only constant in the game. Everything else in the game, somebody is trying to prevent you from doing it. Nobody is trying to prevent you from this. Same size ball. Same distance to the basket. Same size basket. How in the world can you not repeat it?”

Barry said he had a chance encounter with Bulls center Joakim Noah a few years ago and was able to offer instruction on his jumper.

“We worked with Joakim and had him shooting the ball really well,” he said. “He had major flaws in his shot. Unfortunately, he didn’t remember [the shooting tips] when he left. He needed to have somebody there to reinforce it all the time. He had two hands on the ball and had horrible technique.

“His shot was brutal. I don’t know if he remembers, but he was like a different person shooting. I said, ‘Now you have a shot.’ Before that, it was a gamble.”



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