The Worst Airballed Free Throws In The History Of Civilization, Numbers 7 Through 1


The airballed free throw is the most shameful, profound action of failure that exists in any sport. And yet, nobody has attempted to keep stats on them ... until now. Here are all the airballs from the stripe we found, complete with video evidence.

7. Shaquille O'Neal, Los Angeles Lakers (second appearance)

Date: February 3rd, 2001
Game situation: Up by 26, clock position undetermined
Career free throw percentage: 52.7 (22.1 percent worse than league average)
Missed rim by (visual estimate):
Six inches
Immediate visual reaction:


Other notes: There's that arm-swing again. A lot of players do it regardless of where their shot falls, but in almost every case it's more pronounced after an airball. Anyway, we're gonna take a closer look at this, since the quality of the video is so awful. How did this not miss by five feet?


It might have less of an arc than any other shot taken in NBA history, free throw or otherwise. For Shaq to make that shot on purpose -- a shot that's basically design to smack into the front of the rim -- he'd have to perceive the world as a sort of 2-D video game world in which things like the basket are just an icon you have to shoot at, rather than an actual 3-D object that requires more than just hitting it with something.

6. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics

Date: May 4th, 2009
Game situation: Down by 18, 2:15 remaining in 3rd, Eastern Conference semifinals
Career free throw percentage: 62.2 (12.6 percent worse than 2011-12 league average)
Missed rim by (visual estimate): 10 inches
Reaction from an unknown party: "Wow! Was that an airball?" "Yes it was!"
Immediate visual reaction:


Other notes: This is the only instance I was able to find of an NBA point guard airballing a free throw. This one also stands out because it looks like he hooked it well left -- even after taking the camera angle into consideration, it looks like it was half a basketball's length to the side.

Our fourth Kentucky Wildcat of the list, ladies and gentlemen.

5. and
4. Dennis Rodman, Detroit Pistons (misses both)

Date: Undetermined
Game situation: Undetermined
Career free throw percentage: 58.4 (16.4 percent worse than league average)
First attempt missed rim by (visual estimate): Four inches
Second attempt missed rim by (visual estimate): Four inches
Reaction from the booth: "Whoa-ho! Whoa!" ... "WHOA! That's gotta be a rec-ahd! Two ai-ahballs in a row! Look that one up in the rec-ahd book!"
Immediate visual reaction:

Other notes: Well, that's the problem, you see: basketball statisticians don't keep records of airballed free throws. If you're looking for such information, it appears as though you're stuck with my goofy ass. Sorry, everybody.

To answer the question, though: this is one of three instances I've been able to find in which an NBA player completely whiffed both his attempts. (I found video evidence of two other such occurrences in NCAA basketball.) The likelihood of an NBA player airballing a free throw appears to be roughly 0.00003 percent. But if he misses one, according to the data we have here, his odds of airballing his other attempt skyrocket to about 12 percent.

It seems undeniable that this happens because the failure gets in the player's head. This happened to, of all players, Dennis Rodman, whose game revolved around getting in his opponents' heads. Free throws, man ... free throws. Sometimes you take your opponent out of the question, and it turns out you're a tougher opponent than he ever was. I love it when clichés ring true. Feels like you're popping a joint.

3. and
2. Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons (third and fourth appearance)

Date: February 27th, 2010
Game situation: Undetermined
Career free throw percentage: 41.5 (33.3 percent worse than league average)
First attempt missed rim by (visual estimate): like a mile, man
Second attempt missed rim by (visual estimate): like half a mile, man
Reactions from the crowd:

  • "Why is Ben Wallace still in the game?" "I don't know!"
  • "You suck!"

Immediate visual reaction:

Other notes: Well, one thing we know for sure about this: on the first attempt, from the camera's perspective, the ball completely disappears behind the rim. That means it was long enough, but was probably anywhere from six to nine inches to the side.

But that's Ben Wallace, y'all. More than anyone else working today, he works to push boundaries and find new and interesting ways to miss free throws. People boo what they don't understand. I bet people booed Picasso. Well, maybe not, but museums would be way funnier if people booed at art they didn't like.

1. DeSagana Diop, Charlotte Bobcats

Date: January 28th, 2012
Game situation: Down by eight, 6:06 remaining in 3rd
Career free throw percentage: 46.8 (28 percent worse than 2011-12 league average)
Missed rim by (visual estimate): 1.5 feet
Reaction from the booth: "... struggled, he's got ... one point ..."
Immediate visual reaction:


Other notes: I propose that we build a statue to this scene as a monument to gross ineptitude and misery: DeSagana Diop, forever frozen in a posture of resignation with a cast-iron regulation goalpost 15 feet away. The ball, of course, must be forever frozen in mid-air, six feet in the sky and two feet in front of the baseline, so I propose that a rotating roster of children from area middle schools take shifts standing with the bronze basketball held over their heads while shrieking hymns from the long-dead religious text of their choice.

Thank you, friends, for your interest in this ambitious statistical endeavor. And on behalf of all the gentlemen on this list, I am so, so sorry.

Intro | Numbers 36 through 31 | Numbers 30 through 25 | Numbers 24 through 20
Numbers 19 through 14 | Numbers 13 through 8 | Numbers 7 through 1

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.


You must be a member of to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at You should read them.


You must be a member of to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.