NBA Roundtable

Free Throw Shooting Brilliance In Playoffs

In Awards/Achievement on May 19, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Dirk’s phenomenal shooting at the line Game One of the Western Conference Finals has peaked my curiosity.


Question: Are Dirk and Bird the two best free throw shooters of all-time in the playoffs?

Dirk is 12th and Bird 10th in All-Time FT% in the playoffs.

Ahead of them are — Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, Peja Stojakovic, Steve Nash, Hersey Hawkins, Kiki Vandeweghe, Bill Sharman, Calvin Murphy and #1 Mark Price.


Dirk and Bird have taken and made the most free throws of any players off of that list though. Both of around 900 made FTs.

They have more than double the number of made FTs than everyone else on that list except for Reggie Miller (770). And Chauncey Billups (776) who is 16th in FT% and is in third place for makes out of those high percentage FT shooters. Interesting.

I’d definitely consider Dirk and Bird the two best FT shooters in NBA history given their number of attempts and accuracy levels.


Side Note

I decided to run a different search. I looked for players with 400+ made free throws in the playoffs and a FT% of greater than 86%.

One other name popped up – Rip Hamilton – not a guy I expected to see on this list. 598 makes on 688 attempts. That is a lot of free throws for a guy who is fairly mediocre at getting to the line normally. I suppose the added minutes played per game in the playoffs titled things. Still, nice achievement from Rip.

If I lower it again to 85%, Oscar Robertson (560) and Joe Dumars (406 made FTs) are added to the list.

Highest Number of Made FTs

This has got me curious now … a separate list of players who have made 800+ free throws in the playoffs.

Starting with the players who made more than a 1,000 FTs in the playoffs

  • (1) Michael Jordan – 1463 made FTs in 179 games on 82.8% accuracy
  • (2) Karl Malone – 1269 made FTs in 193 games on 73.6% accuracy
  • (3) Kobe Bryant – 1241 made FTs in 208 games on 81.5% accuracy
  • (4) Jerry West – 1213 made FTs in 151 games on 80.5% accuracy
  • (5) Shaq – 1168 made FTs in 216 games on 50.4% accuracy
  • (6) Magic Johnson – 1068 made FTs in 190 games on 83.8%% accuracy
  • (7) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 1050 made FTs in 237 games on 74% shooting

And finishing with the 800 to 999 pile

  • (8] Tim Duncan – 987 made FTs in 237 games on 67.8\5% shooting
  • (9) Larry Bird – 901 made FTs in 164 games on 89% shooting
  • (10) Dirk Nowitzki – 889 made FTs in 113 games on 89% shooting (plus another 7-7 tonight)
  • (11) John Havlicek – 874 made FTs in 172 games on 83.6% shooting
  • (12) Elgin Baylor – 847 made FTs in 133 games on 76.9% shooting


Side stat — Shaq led the group with 10.7 FTAs per game, West had 10.0 FTAs per game, Jordan 9.9.

Dirk had 8.8, Malone 8.9. Duncan and Baylor each averaged 8.3 attempts per game. Kobe 7.

The four others – Magic, Bird, Kareem and Havlicek – averaged between 6 and 7 FTAs per night.


In terms of made free throws per game, Dirk ranks third (7.8] behind West (8.0) and Jordan (8.2).

Nobody else has more than 7 made FTs per game in the playoffs.

Karl Malone is fourth with 6.6. Then Baylor. Then Kobe. Then under six makes per game. The rest are all between five and six except for Kareem who averages 4.4 makes per game.

Interesting … and very impressive work from Dirk.

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