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Are Granny Shots Legal in Basketball? The Definitive Guide

The short answer is yes, granny shots are 100% legal in competitive basketball at all levels. But let‘s dive deeper into the details on this unique shooting style.

As a lifelong basketball nerd and rec league junkie, I‘ve experimented with just about every trick in the book to improve my game. The granny shot always seemed intriguing because of its potential accuracy, but I assumed it would hurt my street cred. After some deep research and chats with coaches, I realized underhand free throws are seriously legit and could elevate any player‘s scoring ability.

In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll break down everything you need to know about mastering the granny shot, from its history and benefits to overcoming potential barriers. Whether you‘re a serious competitor or weekend warrior, this unconventional technique is worth adding to your skills arsenal. Let‘s do this!

What Exactly is a Granny Shot?

The granny shot, also called underhand free throws or underarm free throws, refers to shooting a basketball with an underhanded motion.

To take a granny style free throw, the player holds the ball with both hands below the waist. They dip into a slight knee bend with feet shoulder width apart, core engaged. Then the player swings the ball in an upward arc until releasing it smoothly near the chin.

This contrasts with the traditional overhand free throw shot where the shooter extends the ball overhead before flicking their wrist downward towards the hoop.

A Brief History of Underhanded Basketball Shooting

Believe it or not, granny style shots have been around since the early days of basketball. In the sport‘s pioneering era, underhanded free throws were widely used and seen as a fundamental skill.

The technique offers enhanced control and a soft shooting touch. Basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain famously utilized underhand free throws during his 100-point game in 1962, in which he went 28 of 32 from the foul line.

Another NBA great, Rick Barry, shot underhanded for his entire pro career and still holds the second highest free throw percentage in league history (89.3%).

So if underhand shots are so accurate, why did they fall out of favor? Read on to learn more about the advantages granny style shooting can provide.

The Case for Shooting Granny Style – Backed by Physics and Accuracy

There‘s a strong scientific argument to be made for underhand free throws. Physics studies have proven they produce a more optimal angle of entry and trajectory.

Here are some key reasons this unique technique is effective:

Improved shooting percentage

By releasing the ball near the chin on an upward arc, granny shots achieve a softer bounce off the back rim and cleaner swish through the net. This leads to an average 10-15% increase in free throw accuracy for those who master the form.

Natural kinetic motion

The underhand shot utilizes the legs and core for momentum in one smooth, continuous motion. Less motion translates to fewer variables and opportunities for mechanical errors. Overhand involves more moving body parts that must perfectly synchronize to be accurate.

Reduced fatigue

Overhand free throw shooting depends largely on the arms and shoulders. As these muscle groups fatigue, shot consistency suffers. Granny style engages the whole body, spreading effort across larger muscle groups that tire less quickly. This helps maintain accuracy even when tired late in games.

Arc negates defender impact

The high arc of underhand shots makes it tough for defenders to effectively block attempts. Traditional overhand free throws launch on a lower trajectory and release closer to the shooter‘s body. This gives leaping defenders more opportunity to swat the ball away.

Physics-proven optimal angle

Meticulous scientific analysis determined the ideal angle for a basketball to enter the hoop is about 52 degrees. Remarkably, this closely matches the typical launch angle achieved by shooting underhanded free throws. The geometry simply works.

Below is a data table comparing granny shot stats to conventional free throw numbers:

Shooting Style Average Accuracy Launch Angle
Underhand 80-95% 50-55 degrees
Overhand 65-80% 40-45 degrees

As you can see, the results speak for themselves. When executed properly, granny shots give players a significant mathematical edge from the foul line.

Overcoming Stigma by Owning Your Game

Given the clear benefits, why has the granny shot faded in popularity? It largely comes down to perception. Some view underhand shooting as an embarrassing style reserved for girls or the elderly. Many players fear hurting their image by adopting this quirky technique.

But I believe the stigma is overblown. As Stephen Curry‘s range-stretching jumper proves, unorthodox skills can become mainstream when backed by results.

Here are some tips for owning the underhand style with confidence:

  • Block out hecklers – Don‘t let crowd reactions or social media stop you from excelling.
  • Have a growth mindset – View skills as flexible and focus on continuous improvement.
  • Know your "why" – Identify the motivation behind improving as a shooter, on and off the court.
  • Be coachable – Seek feedback from experts who can hone your mechanics.
  • Have role models – Look to pros like Rick Barry who overcame stigma with Elite accuracy.

At the end of the day, a W is a W. If granny-style free throws bump your scoring average, then who cares about optics? Impact on the scoreboard will silence critics every time.

Mastering the Mechanics

Okay, I‘ve given you plenty of theory on why underhand shots reign supreme. Now let‘s get into the practical steps for proper technique:


  • Feet shoulder-width apart
  • Knees bent slightly
  • Weight evenly balanced


  • Palms behind the ball
  • Fingers spread comfortably
  • Thumbs aligned in center


  • Initiate upward swing from knees
  • Extend arms fully upwards
  • Release at peak near chin
  • Flick wrists and fingers for backspin


  • Launch between 45-55 degrees
  • Follow high arc towards rim
  • Soften impact off back rim

Practice the process

Just like a traditional free throw, shooting underhanded requires extensive repetition to groove muscle memory. Be patient in developing consistency. Use the data to self-correct and improve.

With deliberate practice, the granny shot can become second nature. Don‘t be afraid to lean on the expertise of coaches and veterans either. We all need guidance along the journey.

The Takeaway: An Underrated Skill for the Modern Era

Granny-style free throws clearly have tremendous hidden potential, both statistically and strategically. In an era of basketball dominated by analytics, this forgotten technique deserves fresh consideration.

Yet outdated stigmas and assumptions continue to limit its adoption. By taking an objective approach focused on measurable performance, players can tap into massive upside from the foul line.

So be bold, break the mold and don‘t be afraid to fail. If Wilt Chamberlain and Rick Barry can excel shooting underhanded, then anyone can. Use the tips in this guide to take the first steps toward a money granny shot. Let me know how it goes!