“As soon as players find out his history, they want to work with him,” says Nelson. “If they don’t, that means they won’t be as good of free-throw shooters as they can be.”
One player who benefited greatly from Boren’s guidance was center Shawn Bradley. When the 7-foot-6-inch human skyscraper arrived in Dallas in 1997, he had made 65.1 percent of his free throws. “He was blocking his right eye with his shooting arm,” Boren explains.
Now You Know:
At press time, the Mavericks ranked second among the 30 NBA teams with a .798 free-throw percentage this season.
After clearing his line of sight, Bradley improved his free-throw shooting to 76.2 percent during the last nine years of his career.
Today, each Mavericks player attempts at least 25 free throws at every practice. All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki made 77.3 percent of his free throws during his 1998-’99 rookie season but improved dramatically. He has made better than 90 percent of his free throws three times and entered the current season at 87.8 percent for his career.
Seven of the Mavericks’ full-time players shot 79 percent or better last season. That accuracy can make a huge difference in a close game.
“If a team gets behind us by five or six points and thinks it can win by fouling us — we never lose those games,” Boren says. By his own admission, Boren was an average player growing up. “There is a lot more to basketball than shooting free throws,” he says.
Born in Oklahoma City, Boren now lives in Dallas. His day job is as the vice president of EquiCap Partners, an investment firm. He began attending Mavericks games 30 years ago to entertain clients. Between brokering deals, the bespectacled banker tried to understand why so many NBA players missed the unguarded 15-foot gimme.
He looked into the stats and says he discovered the league average had hovered at 75 percent for nearly 50 years. Boren figured because the basket always had been 15 feet from the free-throw line, the component that could make a difference was coaching. He took it upon himself to read every book on the subject and master the shot.
After testing different methods for 13 months, Boren devised his 39-point philosophy. But he needed someone to buy into it.