Hall of Famer Rick Barry calls Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan a ‘liability’

Clippers center DeAndre Jordan attempts a dunk as he elevates above Spurs forward Tim Duncan, who was called for a foul on the play in the first half.
(Harry How / Getty Images)

Rick Barry thinks DeAndre Jordan is a liability.

Well, Barry freely uses the same adjective to describe any NBA player who makes less than 80% of his free throws. Jordan, the Clippers’ center, just happened to be shooting 40.9% from the free-throw line before the Clippers played the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night at Staples Center.

Somehow, there were a handful of players with a worse percentage, including Dallas point guard Rajon Rondo (31.1%).

“It’s painful to watch anyone shoot free throws poorly,” Barry, the Hall of Famer who made 89.9% of his free throws in the NBA, said in a telephone interview. “It’s inexcusable to me because anybody can learn how to do something and do it well if you work at it enough.”


If this is where you think Barry will suggest that Jordan adopt his famed underhanded style of shooting free throws, well, you’re onto something.

“He’s a liability to his team, and he needs to do something to correct it,” Barry said. “So it would be smart on his part to seriously give some consideration to learning how to do this.”

Jordan said he had not considered shooting underhanded, “but if it works it works.”

Legendary center Wilt Chamberlain tried the style but could not replicate Barry’s success because he had trouble mastering the technique.

Only one player in college basketball and the NBA currently shoots free throws underhanded: Canyon Barry, the youngest son of Rick and a sophomore at the College of Charleston.

Canyon learned the method from his father just as Rick had learned it from his, a semi-pro player named Richard Barry Jr. who also coached at a parochial school. Rick learned to shoot underhanded in high school while tuning out every mean-spirited chant from fans.

“Like my father said, God rest his soul,” Rick Barry said, “‘Son, they can’t make fun of you if you’re making them.’”

Barry finished his career as the most accurate free-throw shooter in NBA history and still ranks third, behind only Mark Price (90.3%) and Steve Nash (90.4%). Barry said he taught another NBA player to shoot underhanded after his retirement in 1980, but the player “never had enough guts to do it” when he reported to training camp.

Barry said the social stigma of underhanded free throws should no longer exist.

“In my case, I didn’t want to do it because girls shot that way,” Barry said. “Well, girls don’t shoot that way now, so what is the reason? You’re just doing something that’s a little bit different, but the whole reason is to go up there and make your free throws, and what difference does it make how you do it as long as you do it?”

Jordan said a big part of his problem was a mental hang-up about shooting free throws in front of large crowds. “When I take them in practice, I make them,” he said. “It’s not 20,000 people. I think it’s all mental.”

Twitter: @latbbolch

Times staff writer Melissa Rohlin contributed to this report.