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15 Impressive Free Throw Distractions

by: Esteban On  Friday, March 2, 2012

free throw distractions

Whether it’s college basketball or the NBA, the numbers are all pretty much the same: the average basketball team tends to make around 72% of its free throws, with good teams draining around 80% and terrible teams hitting around 65%. So if, on average, teams take about 22 free throw attempts per game, the difference between the best and worst free throw teams works out to about 3.3 points per game. And that hardly seems significant compared to everything else that influences the outcome of basketball games—like, for example, having good players.

But please don’t tell any of this to the fans behind the away team’s basket. Those people love making elaborate signs, wearing crazy costumes, jumping up and down, and sacrificing their dignity in an attempt to distract the opponent’s players and affect the outcome of the game. And I think pretty much everyone loves watching them do all these things.

Does it work? No, probably not. Teams pretty much always have the same FT% on the road as they do at home. But who cares if it doesn’t work? It’s fun, and sports are supposed to be about fun, not math and statistics.

So I say, keep it up, crazy behind-the-basket people. Prove the stats nerds wrong.

And in an effort to encourage more free-throw craziness, here’s a list of 15 of the most impressive free throw distractions you’ll ever see. Hopefully these people will continue to outdo themselves.

15. Long Beach State 49ers fans

#15 long beach state 49ers free throw distraction

Long Beach State may not be a basketball powerhouse, but that doesn’t stop their fans from going all-out in their behind-the-basket shenanigans. You’ve got Slimer, Stewie Griffin, Chewbacca, and Zach Galifianakis taunting the opposing players. Sure, the opponents are probably able to block them out and focus in on the basket, but it looks good on TV. (Wait, are the LBS 49ers even on TV?)

14. Cavaliers fans giving directions

#14 cleveland cavaliers free throw distraction

Here’s a free throw distraction that’s a little more thought out. For some reason, your brain instinctively wants to follow arrows, so in theory this attempt might achieve a split second of distraction. (In practice, it probably doesn’t work, but i’s a nice try.)

13. Clemson’s Orange hypnosis

#13 clemson free throw distraction

Okay, now we’re getting a bit more methodical. At Clemson, they give you a nice orange backdrop, but then throw in a couple of those hypnotic swirly things. I could see this actually mesmerizing a player for a moment or two.

12. Sea of green

notre dame free throw distraction

Leave it to the nerds at Notre Dame to apply real neuroscience theory at a basketball game.

You see, several years back, a neuroscientist wrote an article for Slate magazine about the science of distraction. In the article, he explained that a lot of random motion won’t distract someone who is focused because the brain can just write off all the sights and sounds and meaningless. However, if everyone behind the basket were to move in unison, then that could trick the brain into believing it is moving, throwing off a free throw shooter’s balance.

As you can see here, the Notre Dame students are trying this theory out, with everyone moving in the same direction at the same time.

11. D’Oh!

#11 indiana hoosiers free throw distractions

I doubt this free throw distraction from Indiana University is particularly effective. But who doesn’t love Homer Simpson?

10. Duke’s Speedo Guy


Outside of tricking a player’s mind into believing it is moving and thereby screwing up the guy’s equilibrium—which is pretty difficult to do—the only way to really distract an opposing free throw shooting is to do something that (a) players can’t not notice and (b) is utterly unexpected.

Perfect example: the famous Duke Speedo Guy.

9. Mind games in Memphis

memphis tigers free throw distraction

It looks here like Memphis has also tried to apply a little science to their free throw distractions. Here they seem to be trying to recreate one of those little mind tricks where you stare at the five black dots for 30 seconds until they become purple, or until you see six of them, or whatever. You know what I’m talking about—your aunt probably forwarded you an email with something like this.

8. Sea of crazies

#8 san diego state free throw distraction

Dog the Bounty Hunter, Mickey Rourke, Kenny Powers, and Borat: distracting? Who knows. Disturbing? Without a doubt.

The fans at San Diego State have a keen sense of the bizarre.

7. Pasty, Chubby, Shirtless

#7 red scare free throw distraction

This Dayton Flyers fan probably isn’t quite as effective as the Duke Speedo Guy. But he definitely stands out in the crowd.

6. Kobe Taunt

#6 free throw distraction kobe not room service again

This one (referring to the time Kobe Bryant was accused of rape) is definitely in poor taste. However, if by some chance Kobe let his guard down and actually red the sign—which is extremely unlikely—it would have to mess with his head a bit, don’t you think?

5. Raptors’ Towel Girl


Here’s why the Toronto Raptors are never going to win: they distract their own players at the line by hiring hot towel girls.

Just look at Andrea Bargnani check this girl out. I mean, we’re talking about an Italian male, here. Anyone who’s ever been to Italy knows that there is a 110% chance the dude will ogle the cute chick bending over in front of him. I’m surprised he didn’t whistle at her or something.

4. Scary Britney

#4 nc state wolfpack free throw distraction

Hey, remember when Britney Spears went nuts and shaved off all her hair? Yeah, that was scary. And it still is scary, especially when her head is just hovering behind the net at a basketball game.

3. The Longoria Factor

#3 parker-longoria free throw distraction

This one would have worked when Tony Parker and Eva Longoria were still together, and it would work now. Back when they were still together, it would have gotten Tony to think about what a douche he is for cheating on one of the hottest WAGs in all of sports. Now, it would get him thinking about how everyone knows what a douche he is for cheating on one of the hottest WAGs in all of sports.

2. Pau the Llama

celtics fans free throw distraction pau gasol llama

Sometimes, a free throw distraction is funny because it’s true—like this one, where a clever Celtics fan points out that Pau Gasol bears a striking resemblance to a llama.

1. Utah State’s Wild Bill


Wild Bill is perhaps the most famous single free throw distracting guy in basketball. He’s got two key things going for him: he’s funny-fat (as opposed to sad-fat) and he’s creative. So he’s always got something up his sleeve…and it usually involves his bare man boobs.




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