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Why do NBA Players Clap Hands After a Free Throw?

Why do NBA Players Clap Hands After a Free Throw?

We’ve all seen it before; an NBA player gets fouled while driving the ball to the basket or while attempting a three-point, or two-point, field goal.  Awarded a free throw shot, the player readies themselves for the free throw opportunity, with nothing but the basket in front of them.

But whether or not the player successfully makes the free throw, their teammates immediately rush over, clapping their hands together in solidarity.  Below, we are going to look at just why do NBA players clap hands after a free throw attempt and whether or not doing so can improve a player’s free throw percentage.

What is a Free Throw?

Before getting into why NBA players clap hands after a free throw attempt, it is important to understand just what a free throw is.  The free throw in a game of basketball is a shot attempt taken unopposed by an individual player by shooting from behind the free throw line

Free throws, in basketball, are typically awarded after a defensive or offensive foul has been assessed on the opposing team.  However, more often than not, a free throw is typically assessed after a defensive player has fouled an offensive player, typically within the act of shooting the basketball.

Free throws can also be awarded in other situations, including technical and flagrant foul situations and when the fouling team has entered the bonus foul situation.  The bonus foul situation occurs after a team commits a requisite number of fouls, with each additional foul resulting in an automatic free throw opportunity.

Why do NBA Players Clap Hands After a Free Throw?

How Many Free Throws Does a Player Attempt?

Depending on the situation and occurrence of the foul, a player can be awarded one, two, or three free throw attempts.  The number of foul attempts differs depending on the type of foul and whether completion of the field goal resulted in a made attempt.

Typically, one free throw attempt is provided for any player who successfully attempts and completes a two or three-point field goal.  In addition, one free throw attempt can be awarded to a player after the opposing team has been assessed with a technical foul.

In addition, two free throw attempts will be awarded to any player who attempts a two-point field goal yet fails to successfully make the shot attempt.  Similarly, two free throw attempts will be awarded to an individual player after the opposing team has been assessed with a flagrant foul.

Lastly, three free throw attempts are reserved for any player who attempts, but fails to make, a three-point shot while being fouled.  In this case, the player attempting the shot will be awarded with three free throw shots.

So, why do NBA Players Clap Hands After a Free Throw?

While there is no set rule that players must clap hands after a made or missed free throw attempt, it is generally seen as an act of confidence in the individual player attempting the free throw.  While free throws are aptly named, they can be difficult to execute against, particularly in non-home, larger arenas with thousands of fans booing your attempts.

By clapping hands with your teammates, the individual player attempting the free throw can receive a boost in their confidence and can increase their mental fortitude against the opposing team and the arena crowd.  

Similarly, when a player makes a free throw shot, their teammates typically like to express gratitude and give kudos to the made shot.  This can be difficult to convey orally, particularly in larger arenas, and can be done more simply by clapping hands with one-another.

However, when a player misses a shot, their teammates like to give them encouragement and confidence, particularly for their next shot.  Again, this is most easily and efficiently done with a simple clap of the hands.

And lastly, clapping hands together is a form of bonding and sportsmanship.  Similar to how football players clap hands after a huddle, basketball players will also clap hands to form deeper relationships, give kudos, or simply to give encouragement.  Again, the clap after a free throw is not mandated, but it is recommended and can be seen as a subtle level of encouragement and recognition.

Why do NBA Players Clap Hands After a Free Throw?

The Significance of the Clap

Clapping is one of the most popular sounds we humans make without our vocal cords.  From sporting arenas to graduation ceremonies, to standing ovations, clapping is one of the easiest and most effective ways to show approval, admiration, and gratitude.

But while we typically associate clapping with approval and admiration, research has shown that clapping is more nuanced.  Rather, clapping has little to do with one owns opinion or personal beliefs and is rather a form of community and belonging to a group.

And rather than vocalizing our approval, clapping is more efficient, easier, and generally louder in sound.  Furthermore, clapping is a universal act, whereas stomping your feet may be too disruptive and snapping your fingers may be too difficult for everyone to complete, clapping can be done easily and by nearly everyone in a group.

Interestingly enough, clapping is also a known response in certain situations.  For example, take two different situations and consider which one you would clap in.  The first is after a speech or sermon by a religious figure.  The second is after a speech by a popular politician you support. 

Nearly all of us would agree that clapping for the latter is more appropriate than the former.  However, many of us would have difficulty explaining why.  And that why is what makes clapping so interesting and unifying.  While difficult to explain, clapping is simply a shared understanding of approval and an act that is just understood.