Kevin Durant's shoulder shimmy is another unique foul-line tradition, but does having a ritual help?

BY DARNELL MAYBERRY, Staff Writer, dmayberry@opubco.com Published: November 20, 2009

photo - Kevin Durant's shoulder shimmy he does before every free throw is the latest in a long line of different foul-shot rituals by NBA players. He says it doesn't help him make the shots, but former Southern Nazarene University coach and free throw expert Jim Poteet disagrees. PHOTO BY SARAH PHIPPS, THE OKLAHOMAN
Kevin Durant's shoulder shimmy he does before every free throw is the latest in a long line of different foul-shot rituals by NBA players. He says it doesn't help him make the shots, but former Southern Nazarene University coach and free throw expert Jim Poteet disagrees. PHOTO BY SARAH PHIPPS, THE OKLAHOMAN

Kevin Durant begins his routine by mumbling three motivational words to himself, a quick reminder of his purpose as all eyes descend upon him.

“Knock it down,” the Thunder forward says as he marches to the foul line.

Durant takes a deep breath, relaxes his shoulders. He spins the ball, takes one dribble and bends his knees. While crouched, Durant gives the ball one last spin as he scrunches his shoulders twice over.

The last bit, the shoulder shimmy, is the quirk that's become a staple in Durant's free-throw shooting routine and the latest in a long line of peculiar free-throw rituals by NBA players.

“I don't even think about it. I just do it,” Durant said of his unique free-throw approach. “Sometimes I don't even remember I do it.”

Durant will share the court with one of the more distinctive free-throw shooters in the NBA tonight as Gilbert Arenas leads his Washington Wizards into the Ford Center. Before Arenas hoists his foul shots, he routinely puts the ball behind his back three times and takes three dribbles.

Around the league, Phoenix's Steve Nash practices his form without the ball before receiving the ball from the official and duplicating the same shot. Detroit's Richard Hamilton takes two forward dribbles and one to his right side before shooting. And Dallas' Jason Kidd has long blown a kiss to the rim before each of his foul shots as a signal to his now ex-wife but also to remember to focus on the task at hand.

In addition to having unique free-throw rituals, Durant, Arenas, Nash, Hamilton and Kidd all shoot at least 80 percent from the foul line.

Durant has performed his ritual since the end of his rookie season in Seattle, starting the routine missing a batch of freebies and thinking to himself, ‘Man, I just got to get loose.' He swished the next few and the custom stuck.

But, believe it or not, Durant traces the origin of his routine back to Antoine Walker. When Durant was growing up in the Washington, D.C. area, he remembers being glued to his television set as Walker, then with Boston, posted a career-high 49 points on the Wizards. At the time, Walker, a former three-time All-Star, drew attention to himself by shimmying after heating up and sinking baskets.

“I always was a big Antoine Walker fan. He made it look easy,” Durant said. “Me and my Godfather used to watch him all the time and he used to do it all the time. That's why I liked it. I can't do it after I score so I tried to put in my free throws.”

Durant has noticed other unusual free-throw mannerisms. Two of his all-time favorites were former guards Nick Van Exel and Jerry Stackhouse. Van Exel shot free throws while standing about three feet behind the charity stripe. Before every free throw, Stackhouse would squat so low that his bottom nearly touched the floor.