Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond is currently one of the worst free throw shooters in the NBA, making just 35% of his attempts last season. His career free-throw percentage is slightly higher, at 38%, but it still ranks among the worst percentages in the history of basketball.
For as dominant around the boards as Drummond was last season, his free throw percentage makes Drummond nearly unplayable in close-game situations. Teams will invariably hack him, as they are allowed to under NBA rules, and Drummond will invariably miss.
But Drummond has only played four years of professional basketball, and players like Karl Malone have showed us that it is indeed possible to improve your clip from the line.
Which is why this offseason, Drummond has turned to virtual reality in an attempt to improve his dire free throw situation.
“Drummond puts on a headset and watches himself making free throws. He can choose a first-person view, where he hears the basketball hitting the court as he dribbles, then sees the ball go over his head, up and into the hoop. Or he can choose third-person perspectives and watch his technique from various angles.”
Drummond reportedly uses a VR headset from a company called STRIVR, which was co-founded by a former Stanford placekicker. He uses it both at the Pistons’ practice facility, and when he gets home.
Not surprisingly, he’s only watching himself make free throws.
“They’re all makes, obviously, so it’s constantly watching myself shoot the same shot, over and over again, and now while I’m out there it’s second nature,” Drummond said. “I know I’m not going to be able to make every shot and that’s one thing I really had to tell myself. But the more I shoot the same shot, the better chance of making it.”
Like many of us, Drummond was not an early adopter to VR.
“The first couple of days or weeks, it was hell for me,” Drummond said. “It was hard. I was doing something new. I’ve never done virtual reality in my life and to really accept the fact that I needed help with that part of my game was tough just to give in. When I finally gave in to training my brain to focus on one thing, it kind of worked out for me.”
This is not the first time we’ve seen virtual reality catch on in the NBA. When the Golden State Warriors pitched their franchise to Kevin Durant this summer, they reportedly gave him a VR headset that helped him better visualise the Bay Area and their brand new stadium.
Whether or not VR was the reason Durant signed in Golden State remains unclear, but it’s impossible to say it hurt the Warriors’ cause.
The NBA season is fast approaching, and if Drummond shows vast improvement from the line, expect several other teams to give their worst free-shooters the VR treatment. Looking at you, DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard.
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