30 for 30 aired “This Magic Moment” which recapped the Orlando Magic’s lead up and then run to the finals in the ’94-’95 season. It began with back to back #1 picks where the Magic were able to get Shaq and Anfernee Hardaway to set the foundation. I highly recommend watching it but I found a part of documentary even more fascinating and that was Nick Anderson and his troubles at the foul line.
The below video is game 1 of the ’94-’95 NBA finals. It starts with the Magic up 3 points, 110-107, with 10 seconds left to play. The Magic had blown a 20 point lead earlier in the game but could still salvage the game as long as Nick Anderson makes 1 foul shot. Watch what happened:
After the sharpshooting Kenny Smith 3 to tie the game the Magic lost in OT and were swept in the series thereafter. Many people think that the series would have had a completely different feel if Anderson hadn’t missed 4 straight foul shots. Perhaps. However, Nick Anderson never recovered mentally from this free throw scarring.
Nick Anderson, a career 70% foul shooter, shot 40.4% from the line the subsequent season. He shot around 95 foul shots that season which is a decent sample size. Anderson had to be removed from the closing minutes of several close games due to being undependable at the charity stripe.
His struggles worsened through the first half of the 1997-98 season. Through January 27 of that season, Anderson was averaging only 6.5 points per game, and shooting a paltry 36.3% from the free throw line. However, in the second half of the season, Anderson experienced a sudden career revival, as his scoring average abruptly jumped to 22.6 points per game, and his free throw percentage improved to a 67.6%, a figure close to his former career average. He ended the season with a scoring average of 15.3 points per game.
As someone who isn’t an NBA player and sucks at making foul shots, I know the feeling of not wanting to get fouled because you can’t make a foul shot. It’s a serious mental block. The worst part is it perpetuates because the other team starts noticing it too and you essentially become ineffective because they know all they have to do is foul you and it’s a good spot for them. I feel for you Nick.