If you’ve ever wondered can you dunk a free throw in basketball? – you’re not alone. The short answer is no because it’s illegal and technically impossible. But so what? Rules are made to be broken. So what are all those rules? Why is it a violation to dunk a free throw? Has anyone tried dunking from the free-throw line? Who was the first one?
Keep on reading to find the answers to all of these questions and more!
Table of Contents
- What are free throws?
- What is a dunk?
- What are the rules?
- Who did the first dunk from the free-throw line?
- What are the most iconic dunks from the free-throw line of all time?
- So… to dunk or not to dunk?
What are free throws?
In basketball, free throws are penalty shots that are granted to the team that was fouled. The number of shots they are given is determined by how and where they were fouled. Common fouls, technical fouls, and egregious fouls are the types of fouls that might result in free throws.
Foul shots are another name for free throws. The free-throw line, often known as the foul line, is 15 feet from the backboard and is where the shots are taken. One point is awarded for each free throw.
Free throws have the potential to wreck careers, create success stories, and make a significant difference in game outcomes.
What is a dunk?
A slam dunk, often known as a “dunk,” is a kind of basketball shot that takes place when a player jumps into the air, lifts the ball over the horizontal plane of the hoop and scores by placing the ball right through the basket with one or both hands over the rim.
Is dunking for everyone? Well with sufficient training, practically every player over 6’0 to 6’2 can dunk. To leap higher, anyone can raise their vertical. Dunks that start far away from the hoop are entertaining to watch and demonstrate basketball players’ incredible agility.
What are the rules?
According to the NBA Rulebook:
RULE NO. 9: Free Throws and Penalties
Section I—Positions and Violations
a. […] The shooter shall be above the free-throw line and within the upper half of the free throw He shall attempt the free throw within 10 seconds of controlling the ball in such a way that the ball enters the basket or touches the ring.
b. The free throw shooter may not step over the plane of the free-throw line until the ball touches the basket ring, backboard or the free throw ends.
g. A player shall not touch the ball or the basket ring when the ball is using the basket ring as its lower base nor touch the ball while it is in the imaginary cylinder above the ring after touching the basket ring or backboard.
h. No player shall touch the ball before it touches the basket ring or backboard.
So can you dunk from the free-throw line?
According to all the aforementioned rules, the answer is YES, it is totally possible if you can meet ALL the following requirements:
● You are tall or have a high vertical jump.
● You can jump and fly to the ring to dunk without crossing the free-throw line and touching the ball or the basket ring within 10 seconds.
Many basketball players have tried to dunk from the foul line. Players sprint quickly during fast breaks and then take off from the free-throw line. Some are capable of doing so, while others are not. Tall basketball players with a strong vertical leap or long arms are usually the ones that can dunk from the free-throw line.
One thing you can do to improve your ability to dunk from the free-throw line, especially if you don’t have a height advantage, is to raise your vertical leap. Even tall players must improve their vertical jump in order to dunk from the free-throw line.
Who did the first dunk from the free-throw line?
Following the first-ever Slam Dunk Contest, staged at halftime of the 1976 ABA All Star Game, the free-throw line dunk officially entered the basketball jargon. It’s still a benchmark for basketball’s most daring flyers 45 years later.
Julius Erving of the New York Nets dunked from the free-throw line, with his heel on the line, in the 1976 ABA Slam Slam Contest, and has since been credited with popularizing the free-throw line dunk.
What are the most iconic dunks from the free-throw line of all time?
Let’s look back at some of the most gravity-defying and crowd-bursting dunks in history!
In chronological order:
1. Julius Erving – 1984
Julius ‘Dr. J’ Erving’s free-throw line dunk from the 1976 ABA dunk contest is not only the first ever free-throw line dunk but also the most historically important one. However, being the first doesn’t make it the best though. It was revealed by a freeze frame from Erving’s attempt that he stepped way beyond the foul line before taking flight. Still, his attempt became recognized as the first free throw dunk in the weeks and months that followed.
2. Michael Jordan – 1988
Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan paid tribute to Dr. J’s pioneering dunk in all three NBA slam dunk championships in which he competed. The most remarkable one was when Jordan performed his iconic dunk in front of the home fans in the final attempt of the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest. Jordan’s free-throw line dunk earned him a perfect score, allowing him to successfully secure his champion title.
3. Mike Conley Sr. – 1992
Conley, Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley Jr.’s father, was not an NBA player but an Olympic triple jumper. Thanks to that, he had amazing hops. His dunk took place during the 1992 Foot Locker Celebrity Slam Dunk Contest in which he took off with his feet behind the line and flung himself through the air to make an epic dunk.
4. Brent Barry – 1996
Despite spending the majority of his career doing 3-point shots, Barry is arguably best remembered for the free-throw line smash that secured the then-rookie’s victory in the 1996 NBA dunk contest.
This was the first free-throw line attempt at an All-Star dunk contest since Scottie Pippen’s in 1990. Pippen’s attempt did not get past the first round, but Barry, aided by the fact that he did not have to compete against Dominique Wilkins, impressed enough to earn the cup.
5. James White – 2006
Thanks to his dunk during the 2006 NCAA slam dunk contest, James “Flight” White’s name was mentioned after every poor NBA dunk contest from the mid- to late-2000s.
Until now, most free-throw line dunks have been leaning, frantic attempts at the hoop. White flew so effortlessly that he was able to pull off a two-handed smash. He was on the line, but so what, two hands!
6. Shelby McEwen – 2014
Shelby McEwen’s slam at the Jordan Brand First To Fly Dunk Contest in Las Vegas stood out among the numerous spectacular dunks. A free-throw line jam helped the high school senior win the dunk contest. He not only soars into the air for the jaw-dropping dunk, but he also celebrates as if he realized he had just done something insane.
7. Zach LaVine – 2016
Minnesota Timberwolves player Zach LaVine increased the difficulty by including a windmill motion into the legendary free-throw line jam. On his second dunk of the final round at the 2016 Verizon Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend in Toronto, he tried something different. LaVine has incredible versatility. He can do it all from the free-throw line, such as alley-oops, between-the-legs, 360s, windmills… you name it.
8. Pat Dickert – 2016
6 ft 2 guard Pat Dickert of Colby College made the Internet go crazy after sharing a video on Instagram showing himself pulling off the free-throw line dunk from behind the line.
It’s a pretty remarkable achievement that he can physically take off from 15 feet out and remain in the air long enough to dunk it. It’s quite insane compared to the athletes you see in the NBA dunk contest for him to accomplish it at his size is remarkable.
9. Giannis Antetokounmpo – 2017
Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks has put down some spectacular dunks at Madison Square Garden throughout the years. In 2017, he stole the ball and ran across the floor, taking off from just inside the free-throw line.
Giannis is ideally equipped to accomplish this style of dunk because he possesses the height and wingspan to do it while keeping his feet firmly planted on the ground.
10. Zion Williamson – 2018
Duke’s Zion Williamson is a one-of-a-kind talent. The 285-pound freshman may not play in the NBA, but he can fly. During Duke’s Tuesday practice in Canada, he demonstrated this by making dunking from the free-throw line appear so simple.
When we watch this type of dunk being attempted, we usually see the dunker sprinting full speed while carrying the ball without dribbling. Williamson, on the other hand, kept his dribble going and ran at a steady pace.
So… to dunk or not to dunk?
Although only just a few of the NBA’s most insanely athletic players can dunk from the free-throw line, so do some college students. In other words, anyone can.
The free-throw line dunk has a long history and anyone who manages to pull it off saves themselves a seat in an elite club. Are you the next one to join?