Conquering the charity stripe : a literature review on the biomechanics of free throw shooting




Williams, Edward Joseph, M.S. in Kinesiology

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Basketball is one of the most popular sports on the planet and free throws are vital component of the game. This literature review aims to assess the existing literature to identify key performance indicators for successful free throw trajectory and the biomechanics of the free throw motion that generate such indicators. Specifically, this review addresses mathematical and computer-generated models regarding free throw shooting trajectory and biomechanical analyses that utilized motion capture. Several motor learning principles are considered in the analysis as well, such as Gentile’s taxonomy of motor skills, Bernstein’s degrees of freedom problem and individual variability. Modeling studies have shown that free throw success is remarkably sensitive to release velocity of the ball. Three other crucial variables were identified as well: release height, release angle and backspin. Biomechanical analyses showed that intersegmental coordination is crucial for success, particularly in the upper arm. Postural control, balance and stability are important as well. However, individual movement patterns can differ significantly and there is some degree of movement variability, even in experts. Therefore, individual analysis is warranted for different players. There are notable gaps in our current understanding of the free throw motion. While the upper extremity is frequently assessed in detail, details regarding the lower extremity are lacking and any relationship between the two is largely ignored. Although postural variables were revealed to play a significant role in consistent success, they are infrequently assessed. Application of models and biomechanical assessments to skill improvement has not yet been investigated in the literature and would be an ideal future direction for this line of research. Future studies should seek to assess the whole body as a unit, rather than the largely segmental approaches utilized thus far. More advanced kinetic data and force plate analysis should be explored by future investigators as well.


LCSH Subject Headings