Can You Jump on a Free Throw? Rule Guide

Free throws are an essential aspect of a basketball game. They are an excellent opportunity to score points without being bothered by defenders. It rewards players’ aggressiveness for attacking the basket to draw fouls.

Besides the importance of free throws, some fans are also curious why almost all players don’t jump during free throws – like when doing a jump shot. So to answer the question, can a player jump during a free throw?

According to the NBA and FIBA rule books, jumping during a free throw is legal and allowed as long as the shooter doesn’t step beyond the free-throw line and leaves the semicircle. However, players don’t jump because the conventional method is easier to do.

Now, let us learn why jumping on a free throw is not utilized, even though it is allowed.

Can You Jump on a Free Throw?

According to Rule No. 9, Section I-a of the NBA Rule Book, the free throw shooter must always remain above the free-throw line and within the upper half of the free-throw circle. The player must also attempt the shot within 10 seconds and either enter the basket or at least touch the ring.

The NBA rules do not state that the free throw shooter cannot jump during the attempt.

Similar to the NBA Rules, the FIBA Rules state that the free-throw shooter should also be behind the free-throw line and inside the semicircle. However, it further stated that the shooter could use any method to shoot the free throw line as long as it also either enters the ring or at least touch it.

If we look into FIBA’s statement, it explicitly says that any shot is allowed as long as the shooter remains inside the boundary of the free-throw line and the upper semicircle. This means that jumping during a free throw attempt is legal and allowed.

So, if it’s legal and allowed according to the rulebooks, why won’t players jump, like when performing a jump shot?

Why Don’t Players Jump When Shooting a Free Throw?

Player shoots a free throw

Players don’t jump during a free throw because it adds another step in the theoretical ‘singular motion’ of shooting the basketball. In an interview with Steve Nash, he explained that in shooting the ball, the shooter must be balanced, bend his knees, bring the ball up, and release with follow-through.

Adding a jump in your free-throw routine only increases the complexity of the shot and can decrease your shooting percentage.

It is also important to realize that free throws are uncontested shots, only between the player and the ring. Since you are shooting without any defenders allowed to block your shots, planting your feet firmly on the ground and moving in a single smooth motion can increase your success in the free-throw line.

Effective Tips to Improve Your Free Throw Without Jumping

Free throw on a pro game

Shooting free throws requires a lot of time and effort to master. It also requires balance, technique, and control of the ball.

There are also physical limitations like being too muscular, having large hands, and having less control, like why big men are often poor free-throw shooters. Here are some ways to improve your free throw shooting.

1. Establish your shooting routine

Free throws are all about the routine to increase focus and prepare your muscle memory to remember the movements you practiced. The most common free throw routines are bouncing the ball three times, breathing, and shooting.

However, some NBA players have weird shooting routines that they carried since their early years. Kevin Durant shimmies his shoulders, Steve Nash licks his fingers after three “air” free-throw attempts, and Jason Kidd’s flying kiss to the rim.

These routines may be weird, but as long as they go in, it doesn’t matter.

2. Maintain your balance

Balance is crucial when shooting a free throw. You must set your feet on the ground, bend your legs, and balance with your toes.

3. Always look at the rim while shooting

Always know where you’re aiming. When shooting the ball, it is important to look to the rim so you can always know where to shoot it. We can’t always imitate Michael Jordan’s “blind” free throw for Dikembe Mutombo.

4. Always follow through with your shot

Similar to a jump shot, doing a follow-through with your wrist during a free-throw attempt creates a backspin that increases the percentage of the shot.

5. Keep practicing

Shooting the basketball continuously during practice embeds the skill in your muscle memory which you can apply during the game. Like what they say, practice makes *almost* perfect.

Best Free Throw Shooters in NBA History

Even the best free-throw shooters in NBA History, with all their years of training, technique, routine, and skills, also miss their free throws now and then. Here is a list of the ten most proficient free-throw shooters in the historic 75 years of the NBA.

PlayerCareer FT Shooting Percentage
1. Stephen Curry.9082 (90.82%)
2. Steve Nash.9043 (90.43%)
3. Mark Price.9039 (90.39%)
4. Peja Stojaković.8948 (89.48%)
5. Chauncey Billups.8940 (89.40%)
6. Ray Allen.8939 (89.39%)
7. Rick Barry.8939 (89.39%)
8. Damian Lillard.8927 (89.27%)
9. J.J. Redick.8918 (89.18%)
10. Calvin Murphy.8916 (89.16%)

Throughout the History of the NBA, only three players managed to have a career free throw shooting percentage of more than 90%. They are Stephen Curry, Steve Nash, and Mark Price. Of the three players, the leading Curry is still active in the NBA, so his record is still not set in stone.

Rick Barry, the 7th in NBA History, is the leader in FT percentage in the American Basketball Association (ABA) before the NBA-ABA Merger. He is also one of the most unique free-throw shooters in the NBA because he shoots underhand.


Free throws should be maximized because they are free – as long as you make them.

There may be a lot of techniques and styles used during these shots, but as long as you’re making them, it doesn’t matter, even if your technique is to jump during free throws.

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