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The Most Free Throws Attempted Per Season In The Last 40 Years: James Harden And Karl Malone Are The Free Throw Kings

The Most Free Throws Attempted Per Season In The Last 40 Years: James Harden And Karl Malone Are The Free Throw Kings

We are currently in the era of basketball where offense rules above all, as teams and players want to hoist up as many good-quality shots as possible. The analytics of the game has convinced every NBA team that 3 pointers and shots around the rim are the most efficient shots. Of course, generating easy points from the free-throw line has never been more encouraged since referees are more likely to blow the whistle on possessions.

Offensive players are not only protected but encouraged to show off their flashy style of play. That is why, when players attack the rim, a foul will be called most times. While that is a testament to the league’s desire to have more points on the board, it is also down to the offensive players’ brilliance at reading defenses.

But throughout NBA history, foul calls have been a large part of the NBA game and only the most dominant players have been able to earn whistles in any era. That is why we have collected the most unstoppable players over the last 40 years who have attempted the most foul shots per season. Some names on this list might surprise you, but there will be some expected names on there as well since their legacies as unstoppable figures in the paint are well known.

Can you guess which players have attempted the most shot attempts during their primes? Without further ado, here is the ultimate list of the NBA's most dominant free-throw merchants since the 1983 season. 

1982–83 - Moses Malone - 788 FTA

600 - 788 (FTM - FTA), 76.1 FT%, 78 Games Played

One of the most dominant paint players of all time, superstar Moses Malone was a force during the 1983 season with the Philadelphia 76ers. Moses averaged 24.5 PPG during the season, but he also attempted close to 800 free throws as well. Anytime a center shoots over 75% from the stripe, that will almost always work for his team’s success and that is why the big man won Finals MVP at the end of the year.

1983–84 - Adrian Dantley - 946 FTA

813 - 946 (FTM - FTA), 85.9 FT%, 79 Games Played

Adrian Dantley did it again in 1984 for the Utah Jazz, posting 30.6 PPG and winning his second scoring title. The forward was exceptional at getting to the line, far better than he did in 1982. He attempted 946 free throws during the year, over 100 more free-throw than two years prior. As usual, the superstar managed to make a high percentage of them as well.

1984–85 - Moses Malone - 904 FTA

737 - 904 (FTM - FTA), 81.5 FT%, 79 Games Played

Moses Malone once again topped the charts with the most free throws made in an NBA season when he drained 737 of 904 foul shots which was good for 81.5%. The big man averaged 24.6 PPG during the year, nailing 46.9% from the field and making his 8th straight All-Star Team in the NBA. At 6’10” and 215 lbs, there was no wonder why defenders had a tough time dealing with the superstar big man.

1985–86 - Adrian Dantley - 796 FTA

630 - 796 (FTM - FTA), 79.1 FT%, 76 Games Played

Adrian Dantley’s scoring resume is truly impressive because he put up at least 28 PPG for 6 out of 7 straight seasons with the Utah Jazz. In 1986, the forward once again made the most free throws in the league by getting 630 free points at the stripe. At age 30, Dantley was still in his prime on a physical level and was clearly at his best on the offensive end.

1986–87 - Michael Jordan - 972 FTA

833 - 972 (FTM - FTA), 85.7 FT%, 82 Games Played

Once the 1987 season started, it was Michael Jordan’s time to dominate the offensive side of the court. MJ returned to the court following his injury-ridden second season, posting a career-high 37.1 PPG which was good enough for the player’s first scoring title. Jordan got to the line for 11.9 FTA per game, giving him 10 points a game from the stripe on average.

1987–88 - Charles Barkley - 951 FTA

714 - 951 (FTM - FTA), 75.1 FT%, 80 Games Played

Michael Jordan’s 1988 season was one of the greatest years for any superstar player because the shooting guard won MVP and Defensive Player of the Year while also making the most free throws in the league with 723. But Charles Barkley came second with 714 total makes and attempted 91 more shots from the line than Jordan (860). A powerhouse player who drew a lot of fouls, Barkley was on another level during 1988 in terms of forcing defenders to commit fouls rather than give up easy baskets.

1988–89 - Karl Malone - 918 FTA

703 - 918 (FTM - FTA), 76.6 FT%, 80 Games Played

Even when Michael Jordan was in the midst of winning scoring titles, including the 1989 season, Karl Malone was etching his name in NBA lore as an all-time great scorer. The Mailman attempted over 900 foul shots, going a decent 76.6% from the line. His point guard, John Stockton, was effective in getting the ball to the power forward in positions where defenses were forced to foul or give up an easy bucket.

1989–90 - Karl Malone - 913 FTA

696 - 913 (FTM - FTA), 76.2 FT%, 82 Games Played

There will be a pattern with Karl Malone attempting a ton of free throws because the 1990 season was the second-straight time that the Jazz power forward made the most foul shots. The Mailman finished second in scoring in the game behind Michael Jordan, as he put up 31.0 PPG of which 8.5 points came from the stripe on average.

1990–91 - Karl Malone - 888 FTA

684 - 888 (FTM - FTA), 77.0 FT%, 82 Games Played

For the third straight year, superstar Karl Malone led the NBA in foul shots by nailing 684 out of 888 foul shots. The Mailman shot 77.0% from the line, his usual numbers that were decent enough to give the Jazz’s star an average of 29.0 PPG. Malone was as efficient as ever during the year, and his shooting splits were indicative of the superstar’s excellent season which marked his 4th straight All-Star Team.

1991–92 - Karl Malone - 865 FTA

673 - 865 (FTM - FTA), 77.8 FT%, 81 Games Played

Right in his prime at age 28, Karl Malone was a force on the court by posting 28.0 PPG on 52.6% from the field. One of the best offensive players on the court, The Mailman was efficient from the field but also from the stripe. Malone made 673 of 865 foul shots, mainly because his ability to roll to the rim from John Stockton's passes was almost impossible to stop without fouling.

1992–93 - Karl Malone - 836 FTA

619 - 836 (FTM - FTA), 74.0 FT%, 82 Games Played

Karl Malone’s 6th straight All-Star season once again came as a result of earning easy points from the stripe. With John Stockton pulling the strings from the point guard spot, Karl Malone was able to generate easy baskets from the line by rolling to the rim and assuming position in the post. Karl averaged 27.0 PPG on 55.2% from the field, but he only shot 74.0% from the stripe. Even if his foul-shooting was not great, Malone still led the league in foul shots made for the 5th time in his career.

1993–94 - David Robinson - 925 FTA

693 - 925 (FTM - FTA), 74.9 FT%, 80 Games Played

David Robinson was easily one of the top-10 players in the world during the 1990s, as every year he either put up Hall of Fame quality numbers or captured individual accolades. The Admiral led the NBA in scoring during the 1994 season, which earned him his first and only scoring title. The big man averaged 29.8 PPG on 50.7% from the field, and his 74.9% from the stripe was good enough for the Spurs’ star to nail almost 700 free throws over the year.

1994–95 - Shaquille O’Neal - 854 FTA

455 - 854 (FTM - FTA), 53.3 FT%, 79 Games Played

Shaquille O’Neal, rather hilariously, struggled from the free-throw line for the majority of his career. He was always known as a star who splits his free throws, and that was also evident during the 1995 season as a member of the Orlando Magic. Even if Shaq shot 854 times from the stripe, he only made 455 and still averaged 29.3 PPG to lead the league in scoring.

1995–96 - David Robinson - 823 FTA

626 - 823 (FTM - FTA), 76.1 FT%, 82 Games Played

For the 7th straight season, David Robinson made the All-Star Team and also put up 25.0 PPG from the field on 51.6% from the field. The big man did not lead the league in scoring, Michael Jordan did, but Robinson still made the most foul shots from the field thanks to his all-time great physique and power.

1996–97 - Karl Malone - 690 FTA

521 - 690 (FTM - FTA), 75.5 FT%, 82 Games Played

The Mailman resumed his position as the most fouled player in the game because he went 521-690 from the stripe which was good for 75.5%. Karl Malone was automatic from the floor, averaging 27.4 PPG on 55.0% from the field but he managed to attempt at least 8 free throws per game during the year. Malone also captured his first MVP award with the Utah Jazz.

1997–98 - Karl Malone - 825 FTA

628 - 825 (FTM - FTA), 76.1 FT%, 81 Games Played

Averaging 27.0 PPG during the 1998 season, Karl Malone once again led the league with 628 foul shots made in 825 attempts. The Mailman, even at age 34, was a powerhouse and was able to get to the stripe with ease no matter who was defending him. There is a reason why Malone is currently 3rd all-time in free throws made, and his ability to force refs to blow the whistle is one major factor.

1998–99 - Shaquille O’Neal - 498 FTA

269 - 498 (FTM - FTA), 54.0 FT%, 49 Games Played

Only one year away from winning his first NBA championship and kickstarting a legendary dynasty, Shaquille O’Neal was a force during the lockout-shortened season. The dominant center was fouled a ton of times, as he attempted almost 500 free throws in only 49 games played. As expected, Shaq shot under 55% as he made 269 but still averaged 26.3 PPG.

1999–00 - Shaquille O’Neal - 824 FTA

432 - 824 (FTM - FTA), 52.4 FT%, 79 Games Played

Shaq’s 3-year span of unstoppable dominance started in 2000 when he led the league in scoring at 29.7 PPG on an extremely efficient 57.4% from the field. O’Neal had no comparison on the court because he was simply stronger and more physical than any defender. Taking 824 foul shots, Shaq only made 432 which was “good” for 52.4%.

2000–01 - Shaquille O’Neal - 972 FTA

499 - 972 (FTM - FTA), 51.3 FT%, 74 Games Played

Shaq’s second NBA title came together with another season of leading the league in foul attempts. There was simply no answer for O’Neal because he would literally force the ball into the basket no matter what opposing coaches could plan for. Once again, Shaq put up monster scoring numbers at 28.7 PPG on 57.2% from the field.

2001–02 - Shaquille O’Neal - 717 FTA

398 - 717 (FTM - FTA), 55.5 FT%, 67 Games Played

O’Neal once again led the league in foul attempts while his partner, Kobe Bryant, finished 5th. Shaq averaged 27.2 PPG while Bryant averaged 25.2 PPG, as both players got to the line with ease. The dominant center was still the most physically imposing star in the world because he still put up ridiculous scoring numbers despite shooting 55.5% from the stripe. Had O’Neal been blessed with a more consistent jumper, only one can imagine what his scoring numbers would have been.

2002–03 - Paul Pierce - 753 FTA

604 - 753 (FTM - FTA), 80.2 FT%, 79 Games Played

Paul Pierce is not renowned as an athletic player who could burst to the rim, as he would rather step back for jump shots or try to get open for good looks. But at age 25, Pierce certainly had enough strength and quickness in drawing fouls against flat-footed defenders, and managed over 600 makes from the stripe.

2003–04 - Shaquille O’Neal - 676 FTA

331 - 676 (FTM - FTA), 49.0 FT%, 67 Games Played

In his final season in Los Angeles, Shaquille O’Neal led the league in foul attempts by taking 676 free shots from the stripe. Even if the Shaq-Kobe Bryant dynamic was getting ugly on and off the court, the duo still led the team to the NBA Finals in a losing effort. Seeing O’Neal dominate the post in his prime was a happy moment for Lakers fans who would have to see the superstar join the Miami Heat the following season.

2004–05 - Amar’e Stoudemire - 795 FTA

583 - 795 (FTM - FTA), 73.3 FT%, 80 Games Played

In his third season, Amar’e Stoudemire became an All-Star with the Phoenix Suns by posting 26.0 PPG on 55.9% from the field. Receiving pinpoint passes from superstar Steve Nash, Stoudemire was a force when he attacked the paint and received lobs. Standing 6’10” with explosive athleticism, Amar’e was often fouled near the basket which is why he attempted nearly 800 foul shots.

2005–06 - Allen Iverson - 829 FTA

675 - 829 (FTM - FTA), 81.4 FT%, 72 Games Played

Allen Iverson captured his 4th scoring title in 2005, posting 30.7 PPG on 24.2 FGA and 10.5 FTA. A year later, The Answer led the NBA in free throws made. The Philadelphia 76ers superstar shot 81.4% from the stripe, very solid numbers that resulted in 675 makes in 829 attempts. Thanks to Iverson’s quickness, there was no answer for the guard in most one-on-one possessions.

2006–07 - Kobe Bryant - 768 FTA

667 - 768 (FTM - FTA), 86.8 FT%, 77 Games Played

Kobe Bryant captured his second-straight scoring title, posting 31.6 PPG for the Los Angeles Lakers. The superstar shooting guard had 10.0 FTA per game during the season, resulting in 768 attempts. The league was catering to offense at that time, but nowhere near as much as in today’s game. It is likely that Bryant would have easily had over 800 foul attempts in today’s game.

2007–08 - Dwight Howard - 897 FTA

529 - 897 (FTM - FTA), 59.0 FT%, 82 Games Played

One of the premier centers during his time, Dwight Howard was a monster in the paint due to his incredible strength and explosiveness as a big man. The Orlando Magic superstar shot 59.0% from the stripe, below-average numbers, but typical numbers for a player who was never blessed with any form of a jump-shooting stroke.

2008–09 - Dwight Howard - 849 FTA

504 - 849 (FTM - FTA), 59.4 FT%, 79 Games Played

For the second straight year, superstar center Dwight Howard led the league in free-throw attempts. The dominant big man was impossible to defend against when he received lobs from his teammates, but he was also usually fouled to force him to go 1-2 from the line on most occasions. Considering Howard shot 59.4% from the stripe, that was normally a good strategy to employ.

2009–10 - Kevin Durant - 840 FTA

756 - 840 (FTM - FTA), 90.0 FT%, 82 Games Played

Averaging a league-leading 30.1 PPG in his 3rd NBA season, Kevin Durant was a critical part of the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise that would begin the start of a championship team in the Western Conference. KD shot at least 90% from the free-throw line 3 times in his career, with the first coming in 2010.

2010–11 - Dwight Howard - 916 FTA

546 - 916 (FTM - FTA), 59.6 FT%, 78 Games Played

Still the most dominant center in the league, Dwight Howard was drawing fouls at an impressive rate. It was obvious that the big man was never going to be a consistent free-throw shooter, so teams normally fouled him on most occasions to force him to split a pair. Dwight was exceptional during the year on both ends of the floor, and he made enough foul shots to average 22.9 PPG.

2011–12 - Dwight Howard - 572 FTA

281 - 572 (FTM - FTA), 49.1 FT%, 54 Games Played

Just as Shaquille O’Neal was dominant in the paint during his time, Dwight Howard was similar in the way he drew fouls at an alarming rate. During the lockout-shortened season, the center played 54 games and still attempted over 570 foul shots. Shooting 49.1%, Dwight was still unreliable from the stripe but still made 281 foul shots.

2012–13 - James Harden - 792 FTA

674 - 792 (FTM - FTA), 85.1 FT%, 78 Games Played

At age 23, James Harden was given the keys to the Houston Rockets franchise. He certainly did well with that role, as he posted 25.9 PPG as one of the most improved players in the league. The Beard was exceptional at drawing fouls, attempting almost 800 foul shots, and making an impressive 85.1% of them.

2013–14 - Kevin Durant - 805 FTA

703 - 805 (FTM - FTA), 87.3 FT%, 81 Games Played

The Oklahoma City Thunder star led the league in free throws made for the 5th consecutive year, an incredible feat. His fifth came in 2014 when he swished 703 foul shots at a scintillating 87.3% clip. Durant is one of the greatest superstar free-throw shooters ever, and this run of makes from the stripe is certainly impressive.

2014–15 - James Harden - 824 FTA

715 - 824 (FTM - FTA), 86.8 FT%, 81 Games Played

In the first season of his career, James Harden started making a name for himself as one of the best players in the NBA. The superstar guard was effective in handling the ball, using his quickness and strength to power through defenses and draw the fouls. The Beard shot 86.8% from the stripe, making 715 easy shots from the stripe.

2015–16 - James Harden - 837 FTA

720 - 837 (FTM - FTA), 86.0 FT%, 82 Games Played

James Harden would make it 2 times in a row in 2016, draining 720 free throws in over 837 attempts, an incredible mark of an all-time great scorer. Harden shot a whopping 86.0% from the stripe in 82 games played, and would go on to continue his All-Star growth with the Houston Rockets franchise.

2016–17 - James Harden - 881 FTA

746 - 881 (FTM - FTA), 84.7 FT%, 81 Games Played

Somehow, James Harden manages to attempt a whopping 881 free throws and nailed over 84% of them. Anytime a player can get to the line with that type of efficiency, a team can benefit greatly from this type of production. Harden made 746 free throws, an incredible number that helped James’ 29.1 PPG average during the year.

2017–18 - James Harden - 727 FTA

624 - 727 (FTM - FTA), 85.8 FT%, 72 Games Played

In James Harden’s MVP season, The Beard was simply unstoppable from an offensive point of view. The shooting guard had some elite teammates next to him including Chris Paul and Clint Capela, which helped his own game by having enough space to attack the rim and often get foul calls. The Beard was also exceptional at drawing fouls from the three-point line, often resulting in 3 free throws or an extra free throw in an And-1 situation.

2018–19 - James Harden - 858 FTA

754 - 858 (FTM - FTA), 87.9 FT%, 78 Games Played

James Harden managed to lead the league in free throws made for the 5th consecutive season. The Beard loved attacking the rim and drawing fouls because there was simply no stopping him from a physical or tactical standpoint. Of course, Harden loved flailing on his shots, drawing fouls, and normally hitting the shots as well. Harden’s prowess was also a major reason the Houston Rockets became title contenders that were very tough to beat.

2019–20 - James Harden - 800 FTA

692 - 800 (FTM - FTA), 86.5 FT%, 68 Games Played

James Harden continues his reign as a top free-throw shooter by taking 800 free throws as a member of the Rockets. Alongside Russell Westbrook, Harden was forced to handle the ball and create possessions for his team. He had no problem getting to the basket, often through double teams, and was as efficient as possible by nailing over 86% of them. Looking back, The Beard certainly had one of the most incredible runs as a foul merchant for the Houston Rockets.

2020–21 - Giannis Antetokounmpo - 581 FTA

398 - 581 (FTM - FTA), 68.5 FT%, 61 Games Played

Easily one of the most physically dominant players in NBA history, the Bucks superstar is unstoppable when he has the ball in precarious positions. When The Greek Freak is on the break or has a position down low, Giannis has to be fouled to stop him from dunking the ball for an easy two points. Antetokounmpo got to the line the most in 2021, taking 581 total foul shots during the covid-shortened season.

2021-2022 - Joel Embiid - 803 FTA

654 - 803 (FTM - FTA), 81.4 FT%, 68 Games Played

Joel Embiid is leading the NBA in free throws made at the end of the 2022 season. The big man not only captured his first scoring title but mainly did it by getting to the line as much as possible. While opposing coaches feel that Joel is fooling refs with his ability to consistently get foul calls, he is still getting to the stripe and nailing over 80% of his attempts. Even if opposing head coaches are sharing their disdain for the way Embiid (and his All-Star teammate James Harden) seemingly do not earn their foul shots, there is no denying the big man is unstoppable in the post against defenders in one-on-one positions. 


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