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Is Jumping Allowed on Free Throws in Basketball? The Complete Guide

If you‘ve ever watched a basketball game, you‘ve likely seen players jump up slightly on their free throw attempts. This has become an ingrained shooting motion for many players at all levels. But is jumping actually allowed on free throws in basketball?

The short answer is yes, players are permitted to incorporate a vertical jump as part of their free throw shooting motion. As long as they abide by the other free throw rules, a small hop or jump is perfectly legal.

In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll explain the full rules around jumping on free throws. I‘ll also analyze why players jump, historical examples, and proper technique. By the end, you‘ll be a free throw jumping expert!

Free Throw Rules – What You Can and Can‘t Do

Let‘s first review the basic guidelines for free throw shooting according to the official NBA rulebook:

  • The shooter must start with their feet behind the 15-foot free throw line.
  • They must release the ball within 10 seconds in a continuous motion.
  • They cannot step over or touch the free throw line until the ball makes contact with the rim.
  • They must stay within the designated free throw lane area on the court.

The key point is that there is no rule explicitly prohibiting players from incorporating a vertical jump. As long as you abide by the above regulations and do not break the plane of the free throw line, jumping is permitted as part of your natural shooting motion.

Free Throw Violations to Avoid

However, there are certain acts that would constitute a violation or foul when jumping on a free throw attempt:

  • Horizontal jumping: Moving laterally or jumping forward toward the basket is prohibited. You must release the ball from behind the 15-foot free throw line.

  • Pump faking: Faking your initial shooting motion is a violation resulting in a turnover.

  • Exceeding the time limit: The jump must be part of a continuous 10-second shooting motion. Taking too long is a violation.

  • Stepping over the line: Landing in front of the free throw line before the ball hits the rim is also illegal.

As long as you avoid these violations, vertically jumping straight up and down during your free throw motion is perfectly legal according to the NBA, FIBA and NCAA men‘s and women‘s rulebooks. Officials will allow it as part of a player‘s natural shooting rhythm.

Why Do Players Jump on Free Throws?

If it‘s not required, why do so many great free throw shooters incorporate a hop or jump into their shot? There are several potential benefits:

Increased Power

Jumping upwards on the shot provides additional momentum and power transfer through the legs and upper body. This can provide more arc and accuracy.

Higher Release Point

The jump enables the shooter to release the ball from a higher point relative to their natural standing reach. This makes it more difficult for defenders to contest or block the shot attempt.

Rhythm and Timing

Executing the controlled jump can help the shooter establish a smooth, rhythmic tempo and shooting flow. Repeating the same motion is key for consistency.

Confidence and Focus

Having a repetitive pre-shot routine that includes a jump may help some players lock-in mentally and alleviate pressure in big moments at the line.

Comfort and Muscle Memory

Many players have jumped on free throws since they first learned how to shoot. So they are more comfortable playing to their muscle memory.

While not unanimously agreed upon, many shooting coaches believe there are good reasons to incorporate a slight vertical jump. Let‘s look at some legendary players who have famously jumped on free throws during their careers.

Historical Examples of Jumping Free Throw Shooters

Wilt Chamberlain

In the 1960s, NBA icon Wilt Chamberlain began experimenting with jumping from behind the free throw line to dunk his foul shot attempts. He was able to leap from the 15-foot mark and jam it home, terrifying defenders.

While there was no rule against it at the time, eventually the NBA widened the lane area to enforce players to shoot from behind the line. But Wilt exemplified how a jumper like him could reach the basket from 15 feet out.

Wilt Chamberlain Dunking a Free Throw

Rick Barry

Hall of Famer Rick Barry famously shot his free throws underhand, which gave him a soft, high-arcing shot. Based on film study, Barry would also incorporate a small jump on most of his underhand free throw attempts during his career.

Barry is considered one of the greatest free throw shooters ever, with a career 90% average. The jumping technique worked very well for his unique underhand shooting style.

Steve Nash

Steve Nash is another all-time great free thrower, ending his career as a 90% lifetime shooter. The fluid point guard had a controlled, repeatable routine that incorporated a subtle jump on every foul shot.

In interviews, Nash has explained how the slight jump enhanced his accuracy and touch from the line. It gave him a smooth rhythm and helped him focus on his free throw form.

Michael Jordan

Arguably the greatest player ever, Michael Jordan was also automatic at the line. He drained 84% of his free throws for his career, including making them under intense pressure during playoffs and Finals.

Jordan frequently rose up slightly on his free throws, helping make his textbook shooting form even more effortless and effective. His ability to swish them in any situation was a testament to his repetitive routine.

So historically, many of the game‘s best shooters have made the small jump part of their flawless free throw stroke. It is a technique that has clearly stood the test of time.

Proper Mechanics: How to Jump Correctly on Free Throws

If you do decide to implement a jump into your free throw routine, it‘s important to follow proper mechanics:

  • Start balanced with feet squared and shoulder-width apart behind the line. Your knees should be slightly flexed in an athletic stance.

  • Initiate the jump by flexing your knees and swinging your arms in unison to generate force as you begin the upward motion.

  • Time the extension of your legs to coincide with the extension of your shooting arm. Release the ball at the apex of your jump for optimal arc and accuracy.

  • Land in balance with your feet in the same staggered position, being careful not to step over the free throw line prematurely or drift forward.

  • Focus on jumping straight up and down. Any horizontal movement or leaning could result in a violation or miss.

  • Follow through completely with full wrist snap and index finger pointing at the basket, even as you land from the jump.

With practice, the jumping motion should feel natural in your overall shooting rhythm. Executed properly, it can provide increased power and consistency from the charity stripe.

The Stats: Do Jump Shots Improve Free Throw Percentage?

Now that we‘ve looked at technique, let‘s examine whether incorporating a jump positively impacts free throw percentage by looking at some statistics:

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PlayerJump on FT?Career FT %
Rick BarryYes90%
Steve NashYes90%
Dirk NowitzkiNo88%
Mark PriceNo90%
Ray AllenYes89%
Stephen CurryNo91%

The data shows that all-time great free throw shooters have found success with both jumping and non-jumping techniques.

For example, Steve Nash, Ray Allen and Rick Barry all incorporated a jump into their flawless shooting form and converted 90% from the stripe for their careers.

Meanwhile, legends like Mark Price, Dirk Nowitzki and Stephen Curry have not jumped and also consistently drained free throws at a 90% clip.

So while the vertical jump can subjectively help certain players, it does not statistically guarantee better free throw percentage across the board. Proper fundamentals like footwork, balance, alignment and follow through seem to trump all else.

Nonetheless, there are logical reasons why a controlled jump appeals to many great shooters. If executed properly, it can help enhance rhythm and provide extra arc.

Conclusion: To Jump or Not to Jump on Free Throws?

Based on this extensive examination of free throw jumping rules, history and technique, what‘s the final verdict?

Jumping on free throws in basketball is completely legal as long as it follows a continuous upward shooting motion from behind the foul line. Officials will permit it as part of a player‘s natural rhythm.

Historically, many of the game‘s greatest shooters like Barry, Nash and Jordan have incorporated a small vertical jump into their flawless shooting form.

The controlled jump can provide more power and a higher release point. It may also help some players achieve better focus and confidence at the line.

However, jumping does not statistically guarantee better free throw percentage, as players like Nowitzki and Curry have excelled without jumping. Proper mechanics are most important.

So while not unanimously agreed upon, there are logical reasons to implement a slight jump. If you find it helps your comfort, timing and accuracy, then incorporating a vertical leap on free throws can be a perfectly legal and potentially advantageous technique.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.