September 21, 2023
Explore the distance between the free throw line and the basketball court in this article. Learn how the distance was determined and how it affects the game of basketball. Discover tips for shooting free throws effectively and debunk common myths surrounding the free throw line.


One of the fundamental aspects of basketball is the free throw, an opportunity for players to score points without any interference from the other team. However, have you ever wondered about the distance between the free throw line and the basket? It turns out the placement of the free throw line has significant meaning behind it. In this article, we will explore the distance between the free throw line and the basket, why it’s placed where it is, and how it affects the game.

The Science Behind the Free Throw Line Placement

The origin of the free throw line dates back to 1894, when the free throw was introduced to the game of basketball. The line was originally placed 20 feet away from the basket. Over time, the distance was shortened to 15 feet, where it remains today. The free throw line affects the game in numerous ways, including determining the distance players must jump and making the success of a free throw more physiological than chance.

So why is the free throw line placed at 15 feet in the NBA? According to scientific research, players shooting from a distance of 15 feet have a clear line of vision to the rim, are able to transfer energy from their feet to their shooting hand. As a result point guards don’t need a high release point, they can just set their feet and release their shot without jumping. For more significant baskets, players will increase the jump height as it’s required.

Breaking Down the NBA’s Free Throw Line Distance

The free throw line distance in the NBA is 15 feet from the center of the basket. This distance has remained the same since 1949 when the American Basketball Association (ABA) set the standard. The ABA later merged with the NBA, and the standard has remained since. Despite its longevity, there have been proposals to change the distance, but these proposals have ultimately failed.

Statistics show that free throws from this distance are completed by NBA players around 75% of the time, making them essential to winning games. The distance has become such a key aspect of the game that it is now used to measure a player’s skill as a shooter.

Mastering the Art of Shooting: Understanding the Free Throw Line

Understanding how to shoot a free throw can be the difference between winning or losing a game. While there is no one correct way to shoot, some fundamental steps can improve your accuracy. First, find your optimal stance, which may vary depending on factors like player size, grip, and flexibility. Second, focus on keeping the ball balanced and square to the basket, with your eyes on the rim. Finally, follow-through is an essential step to shot accuracy.

Repetition is key to muscle memory and, ultimately, shot accuracy. Consistently practicing free throws will help players build confidence and a reliable shot.

From Athletic Courts to Driveways: The Standard Free Throw Line Distance

The standard free throw line distance varies depending on the intended use. For NCAA and high school basketball, the distance is the same as the NBA, 15 feet from the basket. For FIBA (International Basketball Federation) rules, the distance is slightly shorter at 4.6 meters (14.76 feet).

Aside from athletic courts, the free throw line is also used in driveway basketball games. In these instances, it is up to the player to determine the proper distance. The goal should always be to mimic as closely as possible the standard distance of 15 feet for optimal practice.

Debunking Common Myths: The Truth About the Free Throw Line Distance

There are several myths regarding the free throw line distance, such as the notion that moving the line farther back could make free throws more challenging. However, research has shown that a further distance may not significantly affect shot accuracy. Additionally, there is a common misconception that the distance was once measured from the backboard, but this has not been the case since 1981.

Other myths may originate from a misunderstanding of the game’s rules. For example, many believe that a player’s foot cannot cross the plane of the free throw line. However, this is false. The only stipulation is that the shooter must not step over the line before the ball has left their hand.

From NCAA to NBA: How the Free Throw Line Distance Impacts the Game

While the distance of the free throw line is consistent across the NCAA, high school, and NBA, there are differences in how the distances impact the games. For college and high school players, the shorter distance can make free throws easier to complete. However, for NBA players able to shoot the ball further, the distance may not seem as challenging.

The distance between the free throw line and rim can also affect the type of shots taken during the game. Players who struggle with free throws may be more inclined to pass the ball rather than shooting at the basket. Conversely, players with high free throw percentages may be more confident taking three-point shots.


The free throw line distance in basketball may seem like a small detail, but it has significant implications for players and the sport. Understanding why the free throw line is placed at 15 feet, how to shoot effectively from the line, and how the distance impacts the game can help players elevate their skills. By developing muscle memory and consistently practicing, shooting at the free throw line can become a strength in players’ basketball games.

For those interested in learning more, several resources are available, including basketball books, online tutorials, and team coaches.

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