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Paging Dr. Barry
Rick Reilly
December 11, 2006
SOME THINGS in sports make no sense. The foul pole is fair. Olympic divers dive, shower, then dive again. Michael Irvin continues to be on TV.
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December 11, 2006

Paging Dr. Barry

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SOME THINGS in sports make no sense. The foul pole is fair. Olympic divers dive, shower, then dive again. Michael Irvin continues to be on TV.

But nothing in sports is more ridiculous than bazillion-dollar athletes who can't make free throws.

So many players look like they are flinging live quail. Unguarded, 15 feet from the hoop, they've got as much touch as a sumo wrestler wearing catcher's mitts. Shaq is a career 52-percenter and dropping. Ben Wallace is so sorry, he takes paint off the rim. You know it's bad when teammates slap hands with the shooter after he misses. (Hey, Dude! Pretty close!) And all the while there's a perfect solution that every player rebuffs out of sheer vanity.

Rick Barry.

The former ABA and NBA All-Star forward is the second-best free throw shooter of all time (90.0%, behind only Mark Price's 90.4%). He was as automatic as a Bulova, as reliable as sunup. And he shot them all granny style. Underhanded. From between his legs.

"I would shoot negative percentage before I shot like that," Shaq once grumbled. The Diesel has turned down Barry's offers of help over and over. "He said it wasn't good for his image," Barry says.

Uh, Shaq? You take foul shots as though you were heaving a piano at a plate-glass window. What image are you going for? The Hulk?

But it's not only Shaq. Nobody wants Barry's help, not even his kids. Four of his sons have played professionally, but they all refuse to shoot like him. "Dad," his son Scooter once told him, "it's hard enough being your son without shooting like that."

Don't they know he improved Warriors teammate George Johnson by 40%?

Me, I'm a 63-percenter. I found this out by going to my neighborhood gym and shooting 500 free throws. O.K., that sucks, right? But then I did what NBA bricklayers won't do. I went to see Rick Barry.

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