NBA champions James Harden and Karl Malone have led their respective teams to the finals nine times. No other players have won that many titles in a career, showing off an era of dominating game play. But who is really the basketball king when it comes to free throws?
The “most free throws made in a row” is a statistic that measures the number of consecutive free throws attempted. The most free throws attempted per season in the last 40 years was James Harden and Karl Malone who both reached 23.
We are presently in a period of basketball when offensive takes precedence over defense, with teams and individuals attempting to make as many high-quality shots as possible. Every NBA club has been persuaded by the game’s analytics that three-pointers and shoots near the rim are the most efficient shots. Of course, because referees are more likely to sound the whistle on possessions, scoring easy points from the free-throw line has never been more appealing.
Offensive players are not only protected, but also encouraged to demonstrate their showy style of play. As a result, most times when players approach the rim, a foul will be called. While this is a result of the league’s ambition to score more points, it is also due to the offensive players’ exceptional ability to read defenses.
However, foul calls have always been a big component of the NBA game, and only the best players have been able to get whistles in any period. That is why, throughout the previous 40 years, we have compiled a list of the most unstoppable players who have attempted the most foul shots each season. Some of the names on this list may come as a surprise to you, while others will be anticipated given their reputations as unstoppable figures in the paint.
Can you figure out which players attempted the most shots during their prime? Here, without further ado, is the definitive list of the NBA’s most dominating free-throw shooters since 1983.
Moses Malone, 788 FTA, 1982–83
78 games played, 600 – 788 (FTM – FTA), 76.1 FT percent
Moses Malone, one of the most powerful paint players of all time, was a force for the Philadelphia 76ers during the 1983 season. Moses averaged 24.5 points per game this season, but he also attempted over 800 free throws. When a center shoots over 75% from the line, it nearly always works in his team’s favor, which is why the big man was named Finals MVP at the conclusion of the season.
Adrian Dantley, 946 FTA, 1983–84
79 games played, 813 – 946 (FTM – FTA), 85.9% FT
Adrian Dantley repeated the feat with the Utah Jazz in 1984, averaging 30.6 points per game and capturing his second scoring championship. The forward was significantly better than he was in 1982 when it came to going to the line. During the year, he tried 946 free throws, more than 100 more than the year before. As is customary, the celebrity was able to create a large majority of them.
Moses Malone – 904 FTA, 1984–85
81.5 FT percent, 737 – 904 (FTM – FTA), 79 games played
Moses Malone once again set the record for most free throws made in an NBA season, converting 737 of 904 attempts for an 81.5 percent clip. During the season, the big man scored 24.6 points per game while shooting 46.9% from the field, earning him a spot on the NBA’s All-Star Team for the eighth consecutive year. With a height of 6’10” and a weight of 215 pounds, it’s no surprise that defenders struggled to contain the superstar big man.
Adrian Dantley – 796 FTA, 1985–86
630 – 796 (FTM – FTA), 79.1% FT, 76 games
Adrian Dantley’s scoring record is very astounding, as he averaged at least 28 points per game for six of his seven seasons with the Utah Jazz. With 630 free throws in 1986, the forward was once again the league’s leading free throw shooter. On a physical level, Dantley was still in his prime at the age of 30, and he was obviously at his best on offense.
Michael Jordan – 972 FTA, 1986–87
833-972 (FTM-FTA), 85.7 FT%, and 82 games played
Michael Jordan’s time to dominate the offensive side of the court began with the start of the 1987 season. Following an injury-plagued second season, MJ returned to the floor and set a career best with 37.1 points per game, earning him his first scoring championship. Jordan averaged 11.9 free throw attempts per game, giving him 10 points a game from the line.
Charles Barkley, 951 FTA, 1987–88
714-951 (FTM-FTA), 75.1 FT%, 80 games played
Michael Jordan’s 1988 season was one of the best for any superstar player since he earned MVP and Defensive Player of the Year while also hitting the most free throws in the league (723) and was named MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Charles Barkley, on the other hand, finished in second with 714 total makes and tried 91 more free throws than Jordan (860). Barkley, a big man who drew a lot of fouls, was on another level in 1988 when it came to pushing opponents to foul rather than giving up easy shots.
Karl Malone, 918 FTA, 1988–89
76.6 FT percent, 80 games played, 703 – 918 (FTM – FTA).
Karl Malone was carving his place in NBA legend as an all-time great scorer even as Michael Jordan was in the middle of winning scoring championships, including the 1989 season. Over 900 foul shots were attempted by the Mailman, who shot 76.6 percent from the line. John Stockton, his point guard, was efficient at getting the ball to his power forward in situations when opponents were forced to foul or give up an easy basket.
Karl Malone – 913 FTA, 1989–90
696-913 (FTM-FTA), 76.2 FT%, and 82 games played
Because the Jazz power forward made the most free throws for the second straight season in 1990, there will be a trend with Karl Malone trying a lot of them. The Mailman was the game’s second-highest scorer, behind only Michael Jordan with 31.0 points per game, with an average of 8.5 points from the charity stripe.
Karl Malone – 888 FTA, 1990–91
684 – 888 (FTM – FTA), 77.0 FT%, 82 Games
Karl Malone led the NBA in foul shots for the third year in a row, converting 684 of 888 attempts. The Mailman made 77.0 percent of his free throws, which was good enough to give the Jazz’s star a 29.0 PPG average. During the season, Malone was as effective as ever, and his shooting splits reflected the superstar’s outstanding performance, which earned him a spot on the All-Star Team for the fourth consecutive year.
Karl Malone – 865 FTA, 1991–92
673 – 865 (FTM – FTA), 77.8% FT, 81 Games
Karl Malone, at the age of 28, was a force on the floor, averaging 28.0 points per game while shooting 52.6 percent from the field. The Mailman was one of the finest offensive players on the court, both on the field and at the line. Malone made 673 of 865 free throws, because to his ability to roll to the hoop off of John Stockton’s passes, which was almost difficult to stop without fouling.
Karl Malone – 836 FTA, 1992–93
82 games played, 619 – 836 (FTM – FTA), 74.0 FT percent
Karl Malone’s 6th consecutive All-Star season was made possible with easy points from the stripe. Karl Malone was able to produce easy baskets from the line by rolling to the hoop and taking position in the post with John Stockton tugging the strings from the point guard position. Karl scored 27.0 points a game while shooting 55.2 percent from the field, but just 74.0 percent from the line. Despite his poor foul shooting, Malone led the NBA in made foul shots for the fifth time in his career.
925 FTA – David Robinson, 1993–94
74.9 FT percent, 80 games played, 693 – 925 (FTM – FTA).
During the 1990s, David Robinson was undoubtedly one of the best ten players in the world, putting up Hall of Fame-caliber performances or winning individual awards every year. During the 1994 season, the Admiral topped the NBA in scoring, earning him his first and only scoring championship. The big man scored 29.8 points per game while shooting 50.7 percent from the field and 74.9 percent from the line, allowing the Spurs’ star to make almost 700 free throws over the season.
Shaquille O’Neal – 854 FTA in 1994–95
79 games played, 455 – 854 (FTM – FTA), 53.3 FT percent
Shaquille O’Neal struggled from the free-throw line for the bulk of his career, which was fairly amusing. He’s always been recognized as a great who splits his free throws, and that was obvious during his time with the Orlando Magic in 1995. Even though Shaq only hit 455 of his 854 free throw attempts, he still led the league in scoring with 29.3 points per game.
David Robinson – 823 FTA, 1995–96
82 games played, 626 – 823 (FTM – FTA), 76.1 FT percent
David Robinson was named to the All-Star Team for the seventh consecutive season and averaged 25.0 points per game while shooting 51.6 percent from the floor. Despite the fact that Michael Jordan led the league in scoring, Robinson still hit the most foul shots from the field due to his legendary body and strength.
Karl Malone, 690 FTA, 1996–97
82 games played, 521 – 690 (FTM – FTA), 75.5 FT%
The Mailman reclaimed his title as the game’s most fouled player, going 521-690 from the charity stripe for a 75.5 percent clip. Karl Malone was a machine from the field, averaging 27.4 points per game on 55.0 percent shooting, but he also attempted at least 8 free throws every game. With the Utah Jazz, Malone also won his first MVP award.
Karl Malone – 825 FTA, 1997–98
81 games played, 628 – 825 (FTM – FTA), 76.1 FT%
Karl Malone led the league with 628 foul shots made in 825 attempts during the 1998 season, averaging 27.0 points per game. Even at 34, the Mailman was a force to be reckoned with, and no matter who was guarding him, he was able to go to the stripe with ease. Malone’s propensity to push officials to blow the whistle is one of the key reasons he is presently third all-time in free throws made.
Shaquille O’Neal – 498 FTA in 1998–99
49 games played, 269 – 498 (FTM – FTA), 54.0 FT percent
Shaquille O’Neal was a force during the lockout-shortened season, just a year away from capturing his first NBA title and launching a famous dynasty. In just 49 games, the dominating center was fouled several times and attempted over 500 free throws. Shaq shot under 55%, making 269 shots, but still averaging 26.3 points per game.
Shaquille O’Neal – 824 FTA, 1999–00
79 games played, 432 – 824 (FTM – FTA), 52.4 FT percent
Shaq’s unstoppable domination began in 2000, when he led the NBA in scoring with 29.7 points per game while shooting 57.4% from the field. On the floor, O’Neal was incomparable to any defense because he was just stronger and more muscular. Shaq took 824 foul shots and only made 432, good for 52.4 percent.
Shaquille O’Neal Had 972 FTA in 2000–01.
74 games played, 499 – 972 (FTM – FTA), 51.3 FT percent
Shaq won his second NBA championship while leading the league in foul attempts for the second consecutive season. There was no stopping O’Neal because he would actually push the ball into the hoop regardless of what the other coach planned. Shaq put up monster numbers once again, averaging 28.7 points per game while shooting 57.2 percent from the field.
Shaquille O’Neal, 717 FTA, 2001–02.
398-717 (FTM-FTA), 55.5 FT%, and 67 games played
O’Neal topped the league in foul attempts once again, while his teammate, Kobe Bryant, came in fifth. Shaq averaged 27.2 points per game, while Bryant averaged 25.2 points per game, as both players were able to get to the free throw line with ease. Despite shooting 55.5 percent from the line, the dominating center was still the most physically intimidating talent in the world, putting up insane scoring figures. Only time will tell how much better O’Neal’s scoring averages would have been if he had a more consistent jumper.
Paul Pierce – 753 FTA in 2002–03.
604-753 (FTM-FTA), 80.2 FT%, and 79 games played
Paul Pierce isn’t known for being an athletic player who can rush to the hoop; instead, he prefers to take jump shots or attempt to get open for excellent looks. Pierce, though, possessed enough power and speed to draw fouls against flat-footed opponents at the age of 25, and he made almost 600 free throws.
Shaquille O’Neal – 676 FTA in 2003–04.
67 games played, 331 – 676 (FTM – FTA), 49.0 FT percent
Shaquille O’Neal led the league in foul attempts in his last season in Los Angeles, attempting 676 free throws. Despite the fact that the Shaq-Kobe Bryant relationship was becoming more tense on and off the court, the combination nevertheless led the team to the NBA Finals, albeit in a losing effort. For Lakers fans who would have to watch O’Neal join the Miami Heat the following season, seeing him dominate the post in his prime was a joyous moment.
Amar’e Stoudemire – 795 FTA in 2004–05
583-795 (FTM-FTA), 73.3 FT%, 80 games played
Amar’e Stoudemire became an All-Star with the Phoenix Suns in his third season, averaging 26.0 points per game while shooting 55.9% from the field. Stoudemire was a force when he attacked the paint and took lobs, receiving perfect passes from superstar Steve Nash. Amar’e, who stands 6’10” and has explosive quickness, was often fouled near the basket, prompting him to try roughly 800 foul throws.
Allen Iverson – 829 FTA, 2005–06
72 games played, 675 – 829 (FTM – FTA), 81.4 FT percent
Allen Iverson won his fourth scoring championship in 2005, averaging 30.7 points per game on 24.2 free throws and 10.5 free throw attempts. The Answer topped the NBA in free throws made a year later. The Philadelphia 76ers superstar hit 81.4 percent of his free throws, resulting in 675 attempts and an 81.4 percent success rate. In most one-on-one possessions, the guard had no answer thanks to Iverson’s speed.
Kobe Bryant – 768 FTA in 2006–07.
667 – 768 (FTM – FTA), 86.8% FT, 77 games played
The Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant won his second consecutive scoring championship, with 31.6 points per game. During the season, the superstar shooting guard averaged 10.0 FTA per game, amounting in 768 attempts. At the time, the league favored offense, but not quite as much as it does now. Bryant would very certainly have had over 800 foul attempts in today’s game.
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59.0 FT percent, 82 games played, 529 – 897 (FTM – FTA).
Dwight Howard, one of the best centers of his era, was a monster in the paint because to his remarkable power and explosiveness as a big man. The Orlando Magic superstar shot 59.0 percent from the line, which is below average but not out of the ordinary for a guy who has never been gifted with a jump-shooting stroke.
Dwight Howard – 849 FTA in 2008–09.
504-849 (FTM-FTA), 59.4% FT, and 79 games played
Dwight Howard, the NBA’s best center, topped the league in free-throw attempts for the second year in a row. When he got lobs from his teammates, the imposing big man was tough to defend, but he was also often fouled, forcing him to go 1-2 from the line. That was generally a solid plan to use, given Howard’s 59.4 percent from the line.
Kevin Durant – 840 FTA in 2009–10.
82 games played, 756 – 840 (FTM – FTA), 90.0 FT percent
Kevin Durant was a key element of the Oklahoma City Thunder organization that would begin the beginnings of a Western Conference championship squad in his third NBA season, averaging a league-leading 30.1 points per game. KD has made at least 90 percent of his free throws three times in his career, the first of which was in 2010.
Dwight Howard – 916 FTA in 2010–11.
546 – 916 (FTM – FTA), 59.6% FT, 78 Games
Dwight Howard, the league’s most dominating center, was getting fouls at an alarming pace. Because it was clear that the big guy would never be a steady free-throw shooter, opponents routinely fouled him to compel him to split a pair. Dwight was outstanding on both sides of the court this season, averaging 22.9 points per game while hitting enough free throws.
Dwight Howard – 572 FTA in 2011–12.
54 games played, 281 – 572 (FTM – FTA), 49.1% FT
Dwight Howard, like Shaquille O’Neal, was a dominating force in the paint during his time. He drew fouls at an alarming rate. Despite playing 54 games during the lockout-shortened season, the center attempted nearly 570 foul shots. Dwight was remained inconsistent from the line, shooting 49.1 percent, but he made 281 foul throws.
James Harden – 792 FTA in 2012–13
78 games played, 674 – 792 (FTM – FTA), 85.1 FT percent
James Harden was handed the Houston Rockets franchise at the age of 23. He excelled in that capacity, averaging 25.9 points per game as one of the league’s most improved players. The Beard was a master at drawing fouls, trying almost 800 foul shots and hitting 85.1 percent of them.
Kevin Durant – 805 FTA in 2013–14
81 games played, 703 – 805 (FTM – FTA), 87.3 FT percent
For the fifth year in a row, the Oklahoma City Thunder player lead the league in free throws made, an extraordinary achievement. His fifth came in 2014, when he made 703 foul throws at an incredible 87.3 percent percentage. Durant is one of the best free-throw shooters in NBA history, and his recent success from the line is astonishing.
James Harden – 824 FTA in 2014–15
715 – 824 (FTM – FTA), 86.8% FT, 81 Games
James Harden began to establish himself as one of the finest players in the NBA during his first season. Using his agility and strength to push past defenders and generate fouls, the great guard was efficient in handling the ball. The Beard made 715 easy shots from the stripe, shooting 86.8% from there.
James Harden – 837 FTA in 2015–16
720-837 (FTM-FTA), 86.0 FT%, and 82 games played
In 2016, James Harden would make it two years in a row, sinking 720 free throws in 837 tries, an astounding feat for an all-time great scorer. In 82 games, Harden hit an incredible 86.0 percent from the charity line, and he would go on to become an All-Star with the Houston Rockets.
James Harden – 881 FTA in 2016–17
84.7 FT percent, 746 – 881 (FTM – FTA), 81 games played
James Harden makes an incredible 881 free throw attempts and makes nearly 84 percent of them. A team may profit immensely from a player’s ability to go to the line with that level of efficiency. Harden made 746 free throws this season, an astounding figure that contributed to James’ 29.1 PPG average.
727 FTA – James Harden – 2017–18
72 games played, 624 – 727 (FTM – FTA), 85.8% FT%
From an offensive standpoint, James Harden was unstoppable during his MVP season. The shooting guard was surrounded by outstanding teammates like Chris Paul and Clint Capela, which aided his own game by providing him with adequate freedom to attack the basket and often get foul calls. The Beard was also a master at drawing fouls from beyond the three-point line, which often resulted in three free throws or an additional free throw in an And-1 scenario.
James Harden – 858 FTA in 2018–19
754 – 858 (FTM – FTA), 87.9% FT, 78 Games
For the fifth straight season, James Harden led the NBA in free throws made. Because there was no way to stop him physically or tactically, the Beard enjoyed attacking the rim and earning fouls. Harden, of course, enjoyed flailing on his shoots, getting fouls, and hitting his shots. Harden’s brilliance was also a big reason why the Houston Rockets became championship challengers and difficult to defeat.
James Harden – 800 FTA in 2019–20
68 games played, 692 – 800 (FTM – FTA), 86.5 FT percent
With 800 free throws as a member of the Rockets, James Harden maintains his status as the best free-throw shooter in the league. Harden was required to handle the ball and generate possessions for his team with Russell Westbrook. He had little trouble getting to the basket, frequently through double teams, and he was very efficient, hitting over 86 percent of his shots. The Beard had one of the most spectacular runs as a foul merchant for the Houston Rockets, in retrospect.
Giannis Antetokounmpo – 581 FTA in 2020–21
398-581 (FTM-FTA), 68.5 FT%, 61 games played
The Bucks superstar is unbeatable when he possesses the ball in risky spots. He is easily one of the most physically powerful players in NBA history. When Giannis is on the break or in a low-post position, he must be fouled to prevent him from dunking the ball for an easy two points. In 2021, Antetokounmpo was the player who went to the line the most, with 581 total foul attempts during the covid-shortened season.
Joel Embiid – 803 FTA – 2021-2022
68 games played, 654 – 803 (FTM – FTA), 81.4 FT percent
By the conclusion of the 2022 season, Joel Embiid was leading the NBA in free throws made. The huge guy not only won his first scoring championship, but he did it mostly by getting as close to the line as possible. While opponents believe Joel is deceiving officials with his ability to routinely earn foul calls, he is still going to the line and hitting over 80% of his shots. Even though opposition head coaches disapprove of how Embiid (and his All-Star teammate James Harden) seem to take their foul shots without earning them, there’s no doubting the big man is unbeatable in one-on-one situations.