TOP FIVE TUESDAY: The Top Five ‘Bad at Free Throws’ Bits in Cinema

posted by Tom Fuchs on February 20, 2018

Welcome dear readers, to yet another edition of Top Five Tuesday. This week’s entry was inspired by the recent release of the trailer for Uncle Drew, a film featuring a bevy of current/former NBA stars caked in old age makeup in service of a ‘getting the band back together’ narrative wherein they teach the youngsters at Rucker Park a thing or two. You can watch the trailer below, but pay special attention to the 1:55-2:00 mark of the trailer…

Once I got over my initial disappointment that Uncle Drew won’t be a Jackass Presents Dirty Grandpa-style documentary/fiction hybrid where Kyrie Irving breaks the ankles of an unsuspecting populace with his lethal handles, I saw the opportunity to create my most niche column yet! And considering I’ve tackled nachos, microwaves, and spent hours syncing movie-ending freeze frames to J. Geils Band, I am extremely proud of this distinction. Without further ado, I present to you this week’s vintage…


1. Steel – For a guy who works in blacksmithing, he sure seems comfortable laying bricks
(Dir. Kenneth Johnson | USA | 1997)

  • Before the X-Men, before Spider-Man, before The Avengers, before Black Panther, not before Meteor Man, we had Shaq becoming DC comics superhero John Henry Irons in Steel. And if you think this movie that pits Shaq’s weapons-designer-turned-vigilante against a disgraced-military-officer-turned-black-market-arms-dealer (played by Judd Nelson sporting some of the most iconic 1997 looks) is above making a joke about Shaq’s inability to hit uncontested shots from fifteen feet away, you are sorely mistaken. In fact, Irons’ inability to make bunny shots is a running joke throughout the movie, culminating in this moment of unadulterated brilliance:

  • I don’t know where to begin: the grenade with an approximately 30 second fuse, the fact that he barely manages to save their lives, the incredible “about to die” reaction courtesy of the unnamed henchman. It’s all gold.
  • Bonus note that isn’t really germane to the topic at hand, but I felt you should know – Steel features a young John Hawkes robbing a middle-aged couple of their Playbill:

2. Scary Movie 4 – Your precious Fu-Schnickens can’t save you now
(Dir. David Zucker | USA | 2004)

  • What better way to kick off the fourth installment of your successful horror movie parody franchise than with a Saw riff showcasing the Martin & Lewis of our time in Shaquille O’Neal and Dr. Phil McGraw. My understanding is that this was meant to kick off a Shaq/Dr. Phil cinematic universe, but unfortunately some dreams never come true (not even Kazaam* could wish it into being). Bonus points for this being the most extended riff on Shaq’s struggles from the charity stripe on this list – milkin’ that rule of three for all it’s worth.

*Side note: No free throw jokes went into the making of Shaq’s rapping genie movie, believe or not – we did the research and are as astonished as you are.

3. Grown Ups 2 – Hayek’s Road to Shaqdom
(Dir. Dennis Dugan | USA | 2013)

Grown Ups 2 is like a weird inversion of those fail compilation videos on YouTube, where the people who made it are laughing at us for watching them instead of the other way around. Tucked away in the thick miasma that is Grown Ups 2’s mise en scène is this minor burn (strictly first degree, slap-some-aloe-vera-on-there-and-walk-it-off quality) courtesy of Salma Hayek.

***Side note, one of the most joyous podcast experiences you could hope to have is the first season of The Worst Idea of All Time, in which two New Zealand-based comedians spend a year watching Grown Ups 2 (they never saw the original) on a weekly basis and recording their thoughts. It is a genuine Heart of Darkness journey to the very limits of human mental endurance, and truly hilarious.***

4. Aaron Carter’s That’s How I Beat Shaq Music Video
(Dir. Bernard Gourley | USA | 2000)

I can already hear the argument against inclusion of this seminal 2000 megahit, and I am here to do nothing short of BLOW YOUR MINDS, so buckle the (expletive deleted) up and get ready:

Argument 1: “This is a music video, not a film, therefore it should be excluded from this list.”

  • Every year at the Milwaukee Film Festival we have a local music video showcase. Music videos is films. CASE CLOSED.

Argument 2: “The song’s lyrics feature no mention of Shaq’s free throw troubles, and the accompanying video doesn’t showcase them either.”

  • Now, I admit that this on its face appears to stop my inclusion of this video dead in its tracks. But do you really think I was going to come to this article without bringing receipts? ROLL THAT BEAUTIFUL SHAQ FOOTAGE (from the 1:01-1:03 mark):

I PRESENT EXHIBIT A. Dear reader, let’s break it down frame by frame.  

I ask you, are these not images of a man being fouled while in the act of shooting? And if one is fouled in the act of shooting, what logically follows? That’s right – FREE THROWS. And what’s more:

I PRESENT EXHIBIT B. The score to this regulation length pickup basketball game is 119-117 with 17.9 seconds remaining. Shaq could have achieved that odd number only one of two ways:

  1. By attempting and successfully draining a 3 pointer.
  • Shaq’s career numbers from distance? One for twenty-two, a scorching 4.5 percent! I posit that in a game against pubescent Aaron Carter he would’ve lived in the paint and used his considerable size advantage in an attempt to achieve victory, leaving him no reason to attempt the extraordinarily high-risk/low-yield proposition that is a three pointer. That leaves only one explanation for achieving that score total…
  • The defense rests.

Argument 3: “The song and video’s ‘it was all a dream’ conclusion establish this as having taken place in a reality separate from ours, and therefore could not count as an actual instance of Shaquille O’Neal’s shooting woes being covered in filmed media.”

NOT SO FAST. Refresh yourself on the lyrics:

If it was a dream and it wasn’t real
How’d I get a jersey with the name O’Neal?

And furthermore, I present to you 2013’s Aaron Carter vs. Shaq: THE REMATCH.

I put it to you that Shaq would not have held on to this level of enmity for thirteen years if the inciting incident took place only in the dreamscape of one Aaron Charles Carter. 

Now that I’ve presented you with this abundance of irrefutable, verifiable facts, I think there can be no doubt: Shaq was defeated by Aaron Carter due to a perfect storm of events, not least of which was Shaq struggling from the free throw line, a vulnerability that Aaron surely scouted in advance and took full advantage of. CASE CLOSED.

5. Double Team – Hey, a Movie without Shaq
(Dir. Tsui Hark | USA | 1997)

  • If this week’s column achieves nothing else, I hope it encourages you to check out the only film on this list that does not feature Shaquille O’Neal – Tsui Hark’s 1997 action extravaganza that paired Jean Claude Van Damme and Dennis Rodman, the sublimely loopy Double Team. Now, gun to my head, I think Knock Off (a movie that pairs Van Damme with Rob Schneider and has a plot that revolves around the sale of black market denim) might be the better Tsui Hark/JCVD collabo, but Double Team features:
  1. Dennis Rodman as an arms dealer
  2. A final sequence so majestic that only Wikipedia can do it justice: “Quinn locates Stavros and the baby in an explosives-rigged Roman amphitheater. Stavros leaves Quinn in the middle of a minefield with his son and then unleashes a tiger.”

As for free throw joke? Rodman (a career 58.4 free throw shooter) has a bit of fun at his own expense as seen in the trailer in which his first attempt to trigger a chain reaction with a bit of perfectly spherical rock debris misses the target. CLASSIC HOOPS JAPERY GUYS!

Congratulations to the six of you who made it to the end of this week’s column. I promise next week will have much more broad appeal. (or DO I???????????)