As a kid I was lucky enough to have Nets season tickets from ’02 to ’04, and I’ve been fascinated by free throw routines ever since I saw Jason Kidd blow the kiss at the line in person. It was so different from anything I’d seen and it was so unmistakably him. He did that – no one else.
Every basketball player has their own unique free throw routine, but some stand out more than others. Kevin Durant has his shimmy. Gilbert Arenas brought the ball behind his back. Rip Hamilton took his third dribble outside his stance before he spun and gathered. Charles Barkley spun it three times, then dribbled seven. I have my routine, just like I’m sure you have yours. And so on. What works for one player might not work for any other.
This idea that no two free throw routines are alike was at top of mind when I conceived this short film, Find Your Rhythm, last year. The goal of the visual piece was simple – follow basketball players from all corners of New York City as they practice their free throw routines.
Sounds… ordinary. Right? That’s what I thought when the idea first came to me. How interesting can it be? It’s a dead-ball situation; no high-flying athletes, no masterful dribbling, no displays of power. There isn’t even an obstacle to overcome – literally, it’s in the name – it’s free.
And then I remembered how long it took me to get my free throw routine down. I remembered thinking I would make ten in a row easy, only to have the tenth hit back rim, forcing me to start over again. It was frustrating. But I would stay at the line until I’d make my ten. I remembered the feeling of being in a rhythm, of hitting, eight, nine, ten in a row, of watching the ball fall through the net and then bounce back lightly to me, just like I’d planned, and then doing it again.
Basketball is about becoming a more perfect player; it’s about the pursuit of perfection. It’s about turning weaknesses into strengths and pushing yourself past the limit in front of you. And regardless of background, regardless of skill level, regardless of where or why we play, everyone who picks up a ball remains united by that pursuit.