Well, the quick answer is: Technically yes, you can definitely jump during a free throw as long as you do not cross or land on the free-throw line. However, it’s rare to see players jump on a free throw as jumping only complicates the process.
There are many fouls in basketball, and with those fouls come free throws. The penalty shots are easy to understand, but how they are shot is a little more nebulous. The entire process has a specific set of rules and unsaid regulations that not everyone may understand.
To bring those to light, the following paragraphs will cover the mechanics behind free throws and uncover why they are shot in a specific way. Both analyses will break down, not just fouls themselves, but a large part of basketball as a whole.
The Same Way Every Time
Free throws, which occur after a bonus or shooting foul, are extremely common in basketball. Many are shot throughout a game, and they are all shot in the same way. Players stand in the center of the free throw line, go through a short routine, and then shoot the ball flat footed.
Most players simply catch the ball and go straight into their shot, but some do have a small ritual (such as dribbling the ball three times or tossing it to themselves) before they begin. Even so, no matter how a player shoots, they do have to follow a few rules.
All free throws must be shot within ten seconds of catching the ball, they must be within the half-circle at the top of the key, and they cannot step on or over the free throw line until the ball touches the hoop. As long as they abide by those rules, their shot is legal and will count.
However, there’s one more rule almost every single player follows. They all shoot free throws without jumping off the ground. In fact, it’s the only attempt shot in that way.
In the official basketball rulebook, there’s nothing against how to shoot a free throw. Players can throw the ball to the hoop, toss it up underhand, and they are able to jump if they so choose. Despite that, all instances of such deviations are quite rare. The reason for that is simplicity.
Free throws are muscle memory more than anything else. Players have shot thousands and thousands over their life, which makes it easy for them to score when they’re tired during tough games. It also means the process is streamlined and rather straightforward.
Jumping only complicates that process. The more someone does while shooting at the foul line, the higher chance they have of missing a shot. That’s true in most situations as well. Someone close to the basket typically doesn’t need to jump, they do so to get around a defender.
As there’s no defense while shooting a free throw, there’s no reason for players to try and put another motion into what is a set shot. Even a small hop, rather than a full jump, puts an extra wrench into the mix that can trip up even the most stout players.
Keeping flat footed greatly increases free throw percentage. While routines might mostly be mental, it’s undoubtedly that staying on the ground has plenty of advantages. If players need to jump, that’s fine, but it’s not something that coaches ever teach.
Everyone shoots free throws in their own way. Some people prefer to go with a small routine, while others move straight into the shots. Regardless, almost no one jumps. It simply adds another moving part and complicates a very uncomplicated process.
There’s no rule against jumping, but it seems silly to make free throws any more difficult. They’re supposed to be easy points, and players want to do everything they can to keep them that way.