The Technique

“I call it my six-second trance,” Dr. Tom Amberry says, standing on the free-throw line, ready to shoot. “I do the same thing, the same way, every time. I focus all my concentration for the six seconds it takes to make the free throw. Then relax.”

His free-throw shooting method is a combination of techniques known by all good shooters. Feet square to the line. Bounce the ball three times. Elbow in. Shoot and follow through.

But he admits there is one small move that sets him apart from all others: his concentration on the basketball’s inflation hole. The what? The little round rubber valve where the inflation needle is inserted. Amberry stares at this little black dot as he slowly bounces the ball three times.

“It tells me that I’m holding the ball exactly the same way every time,” Amberry says. “But it also clears my mind. I’m not looking at the scoreboard or the crowd. I look at the inflation hole. Then, like the lens on a camera, I move my eyes up to my target and shoot. Here, let me show you.”


Amberry steps to the line and turns the ball until the inflation hole is staring him in the face. As he bounces the ball his eyes sharpen, his features go blank. Then, his head snaps up, eyes on the target and his long arm sends the ball in a graceful arch--right into the back of the net.

“Focus and concentrate,” he says smiling, expression returning to his face. “The same thing every time.”