Free throw shooting is LeBron’s achilles heel, especially if you’re nervously contrasting him with Michael Jordan, who missed 1,400 free throws but none since 2003.
Perhaps James *should* make more free throws, relative to the amount of times his abilities get him to the line. He’s often reinvented his approach on the fly, and it’s not encouraging that his career FT% (74%) has regressed from his first two years in the league (75%).
Per game, James makes 6.0 out of 8.1 attempts.
For reference, it would take one less miss per contest to put him in Larry Bird territory (88.6%).
Two things about comparing his FT% to MJ’s:
If you’re hellbent on keeping your boyhood Air Jordan poster crease-free, do not dip more than your toes into the stats pool. There are few other categories Jordan will win, save for points per game, retirements, and RBI.
Jordan, too, saw his career 83.5 FT% regress from the 85% he shot in his first seven seasons. Once Jordan got to age-28, he never shot 84% again, twice shooting 79%. Jordan wasn’t the first to succumb to Father Time. Nor is James, 33, the most recent.
But when assessing James’ FT%, isn’t there more value in comparing him to like-sized players?
The All-Time FT% leaders aren’t muscular 270 lb men:
Here are career FT% of some who played in the 250 lb neighborhood, most of whom are 6’7-6’9 non-centers:
Zach Randolph 76%
Al Horford 75%
Willis Reed 75%
LeBron James 74%
Charles Barkley 74%
Karl Malone 74%
Anthony Mason 71%
Blake Griffin 68%
Elvin Hayes 67%
Chris Webber 65%
Below are perimeter players of a slighter build, yet athletic enough to be among the rebounding leaders:
Julius Erving 78%
Elgin Baylor 78%
Russell Westbrook 74%
Scottie Pippen 70%
Dennis Rodman 58%
Ben Wallace 41%
When Karl Malone missed a free throw, it didn’t come with the tiresome un-clutch narrative. No one thought Charles Barkley or Chris Webber puckered at the line.
Complaining about LeBron’s FT% is like complaining that John Stockton didn’t rebound enough. He’s not Malone or Stockton.