Can You Shoot Free Throws? The Discipline of the Basics

Last night, on a national stage, the NCAA Basketball Championship finals were held in San Antonio, Texas. The Kansas Jayhawks defeated the Memphis Tigers 75-68 in a very exciting overtime victory. It was a great game and one of the more competitive games of the tournament.

Here’s the deal: Memphis lost the game, in part, because they can’t shoot free throws. For you non-basketball fans, a free throw is basically the chance to shoot an uncontested shot while everyone else just watches. The percentage of success is very high, according to the stats. Free throw success rates are generally 20 – 25% higher than shots taken from other areas of the court. Toward the end of the game, as Kansas started fouling Memphis players (a common strategy in basketball), the Memphis players missed free throw after free throw. All they had to do was make a few of these shots. They didn’t, and they lost because if it.

Following the game, Memphis Coach John Calipari said, “We spend no time thinking about free-throw shooting,” Well, every basketball fan in American knows that.

While I was watching the Tigers fold under the pressure, I was making some leadership analogies. I am wondering how many leaders spend time thinking about and working on the basics. In basketball, the basics are dribbling, passing and shooting free throws. In leadership, maybe the basics are communication, being an example and responsible living.

I watched Memphis play a few games earlier this season. I wasn’t crazy about their style. Oh, they were a very dominant team, losing only one game prior to the finals. But they were showboats. Lots of talk, lots of taunting other players and teams. True, they were awesome at slam dunking, really exciting to watch as they dribbled behind their backs and made the cool no-look passes. But they can’t shoot free throws. And it cost them big time.

All they had to do was discipline themselves to the basics.

Can you shoot free throws?

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