How Far Is the Free Throw Line From the Hoop?

far-throw-line-hoop Credit: Jed Jacobsohn/Allsport/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

The free throw line is 15 feet away from the basketball hoop. Teams typically shoot free throws after a shooting foul is committed or after the foul limit for that quarter has been reached, though there are additional scenarios that call for foul shots as well.

The free throw was not part of James Naismith's original 13 rules for basketball when he invented the game in 1891. A team that was fouled consecutively originally was given one point, then the rule was changed and every foul gave the other team a point. The free throw was created when Naismith decided victims of a foul should be given a shot at the basket from 20 feet away. The distance was finalized in 1895 when Naismith moved the free throw line up to 15 feet, and the point total was finalized in 1896 at one point for a free throw, compared to two points for a made basket.

As of 2014, the most accurate free throw shooter in NBA history over the course of a career is Mark Price, who made 90.4 percent of his free throws. A controversial defensive strategy based on free throws is the "Hack-a-Shaq." It involves intentionally fouling a poor free throw shooter repeatedly, limiting that team's offensive possessions to free throws. The team that fouls gains more offensive possessions because of the clock stoppages. The strategy was named after Shaquille O'Neal, a former NBA MVP who was also a poor free throw shooter.