Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Each free throw is worth one point, and normally more than one is awarded. The importance of free throws is nevertheless sometimes underestimated; games have been known to be decided on free throws, especially if the game was close. Teams who could have sealed the game on free throws can finish with an unsatisfyingly narrow win or even a loss because of failure behind the line.
When free throws are awarded
There are several situations when free throws can be awarded.
The first and most common is when a player is fouled while in the act of shooting. If the foul causes him to miss the shot, he receives two free throws if he was shooting for two points or three free throws if he was shooting for three. If, despite the foul, the player still makes the shot he was attempting, the number of free throws is reduced to one, and the basket counts. This is known as a three-point or four-point play, depending on the value of the made basket, and happens most frequently (though still uncommon as a whole) during a drive to the basket.
The second is when the fouling team is in the team foul penalty situation. This happens when, in a single period, they commit more than a set number of fouls (four in international and NBA basketball). Even if the player was not in act of shooting, two free throws are awarded no matter where or when the foul occurred. Exceptions are when the foul occurred while the offensive player was shooting, in which case it is treated like a normal shooting foul.
The team foul penalty situation is slightly different in U.S. college basketball. Once a team has committed more than six fouls in a period, the fouled player shoots a one-and-one, in which the player must make the first free throw in order to get a chance to shoot a second. Starting with the tenth foul in a period, two free throws are awarded. The number of fouls that trigger a penalty is higher in college basketball because the periods are longer—two 20-minute halves, as opposed to quarters of 10 minutes in FIBA play or 12 minutes in the NBA. As in professional play, a foul in the act of shooting is treated as a normal shooting foul.
If a player, coach, or team follower (for example doctor, statistician) shows poor sportmanship, e.g. extensive arguing with a referee, that person gets charged with a technical foul. If the technical foul was by a player on court, the opposing team is awarded one free throw; if it was by a coach or other person on the team bench, the opponents get awarded two free throws. The opposing team has an arbitrary choice of shooter, and is then awarded the possession of the ball after the free throws (therefore players do not line up for the rebound in such free throws).
Finally, if a foul is extremely aggressive or did not show an attempt to play the ball, an unsportsmanlike (or in the NBA, flagrant) foul is charged against the player, and the opponent gets two free throws and possession of the ball afterwards.
Fouls "off the ball" (fouls that do not occur on the shooter or near the ball) are handled like the second case above in most situations, however, in the NBA, when there are only 2 minutes left on the clock of either half, obvious off-ball fouls when the fouling team is over the limit are rewarded with one free throw and possession of the ball. It is therefore common for a losing team to purposely foul players such as Shaquille O'Neal, a dominant player but a terrible foul shooter, up until the 2 minute mark, and then play intense defense for the rest of the game. In international games this does not apply.
Free throws are an organised process. The shooter takes his place behind the free throw line (4.5 metres or 15 feet from the basket). All other players must stand in their correct places until the ball leaves the shooter's hands:
Three people from the defensive team and two people from the shooting team line up along the sides of the restricted area (keyhole, paint, lane). These players are normally the ones that rebound the ball. Three line up on one side and two on the other. A defensive player always takes the place closest to the basket.
The remaining four players, two from each team, must remain behind the three point line and the free throw line extended (an imaginary line extended from the free throw line in both directions to the sidelines).
Leaving their designated places before the ball leaves the shooter's hands, interfering with the ball, and (for the defensive team only) attempting to put off the shooter, are all violations. In addition, the shooter must release the ball within five seconds (ten in the NBA) and must not step on or over the free throw line until the ball touches the ring. A violation by the shooter cancels the free throw; a violation by the defensive team results in a substitute free throw if the shooter missed; a violation by the offensive team results in the loss of possession to the defensive team (only if it is on the last free throw).
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