The Secret to 'Swish!'

Imagine yourself standing 13 feet away from the hoop, the eyes of all your teammates and the hushed crowd upon you as you concentrate. A free throw (also known as a foul shot), can be one of the most nerve-racking events in basketball. But, it may not have to be quite as stressful.

With all the March Madness about to ensue, we thought it would be the right time to bring you some exciting news: engineers at North Carolina State University have aced the secret of the free throw.

The latest project of Larry Silverberg and Chau Tran, two Mechanical and Aerospace engineering researchers, involved over 100,000 animated simulations of free throw shots to help them determine the optimum technique. Turns out there are four basic elements to hitting nothing but net on your foul shots:

1. Deep focus: Instead of aiming for the rim or the backboard (which increases your chances of throwing a brick), focus your gaze on the center of the hoop, approximately four inches past the front of the rim. Hitting this sweet spot pretty much guarantees a swish!

2. Follow through: Hold onto the ball for as long as you can before you release it — doing so gives you more control over the speed, spin, and trajectory of the ball.

3. Bend it like Barkley: Silverberg and Tran found that launching the ball at approximately a 50 degree angle with a rainbow-like arc is key.

4. Be a spin-doctor: Put a little bit of back spin on the ball (about 3 revolutions) to help soften the impact of your shot.

Now that you know how to hit free throw like a pro, what are you waiting for? Get outside and practice!

Of course, if you happen to be Lebron James, there’s always this option: