The Historical Study of the Free Throw in Basketball
- From the viewpoints of the development the rules and the tactics until 1945 -
Nobuyuki OKAWA (Toyama University)
The purpose of this study is to clarify the developmental process of
the rules and the tac-
tics of the free throw in Basketball.
The following conclusions can be drawn.
1 ) The free throw was introduced first in the 1894-95 rules. One of the important changes
was the 1923 ruling that the fouled player had to shoot his own free throws. Prior to
that time, the most accurate shooter of the team attempted all free throws.
2 ) In the early rules were no special positions for the players to take along the lane at the
free throw. The players took whichever spot, they could get. In 1931, the home (H) and
the visitor (V) markings were added to the lane and the alternative positions were
assigned to the offensive team and the defensive team along the lane.
3 ) In 1894, the distance from the free throw line to the basket was 20 feet. Next year, this
distance was shortened to 15 feet. However, the free throw distance was changed again
to 20 feet in the AAU guide. The AAU moved their free throw line back to 15 feet in
4 ) The free throw rules covered regulations against the intentionally missed shot and the
shot by the wrong player or at the wrong basket. A 10-second time limit for shooting
a free throw was established in 1912.
5 ) The two-shot free throw was introduced in the collegiate rules of 1911-12. In 1894, both
a field goal and a free throw were of equal value and scored three points. Point values
changed in 1896-97 when a goal made from the field became two points and a goal
made from a free throw counted as one.
6 ) From 1897 to 1899, the free thrower's teammate violated the rule by stepping over the
line on purpose. Therefore, they used the tactics of interfering with the unsuccessful
throw, and giving the thrower another shot.
7 ) The free thrower sometimes threw a missed shot on purpose, directing the ball to the
side where his teammate was lined up, allowing him to tip in for two points instead of
the one-point free throw. This gave an extreme advantage to the team with a big, tall,
8 ) In 1939, the rule was changed to allow the captain to decide whether to shoot the free
throw or take the ball out of bounds and retain possession. The purpose of this rule
was to check the fouling tendency of the trailing team at the end of the game. How-
ever, this created problems in the later parts of a game. It encouraged "stalling", and
made it almost impossible for the team behind to get possession of the ball.
9 ) Since only one point could be scored on the free throw, the defense would foul a player
in the act of shooting on purpose, if a probable field goal would have been scored.