When an NBA player shoots a free throw, he faces no concrete, external opponent. He is simply asked to stand and shoot unbothered from 15 feet away. He has probably played basketball throughout most or all of his entire waking existence. He probably has more practice shooting from this precise point on the court than any other. About 25 percent of the time, his shot hits the rim and bounces out.
About 0.0006 percent of the time, he airballs it. The airballed free throw, in part due to its vast improbability, is the most profound possible failure throughout the entire world of sports. It is worse than a strikeout, interception, gutterball, quadruple-bogey, or any other single sporting instance in existence.
As such, I found it highly regrettable that basketball statisticians do not keep track of airballed free throws, so I took it upon myself to document as many as I could find. I found irrefutable video evidence of 36 airballs from the stripe. I'm sure I didn't find them all -- throughout the NBA's entire history, I'd venture to guess that anywhere from 50 to 100 have occurred.
But these 36 are what we have, and these are what I present to you, complete with said video evidence. While the research is incomplete, it's a start. Some are really bad, while others are really, really bad. Some were chucked up by guys like Ben Wallace and Shaquille O'Neal -- names you would probably expect. Others are more surprising.
If you're aware of an airballed NBA free throw that you don't see on this list, please let me know (@jon_bois). We're all in this together.
Enjoy! Wait, that needs quotation marks. "Enjoy"!