DES MOINES – Rick Barry stands fourth in all-time NBA free-throw accuracy. He was 89.8% for his long Hall of Fame pro career, including 92.3% in 1975-76.
Forty-one seasons later, Rick's son Canyon Barry was a graduate transfer at Florida and set a school record with 42 consecutive made free throws. He made 113 of 128 attempts, 88.3%, becoming the SEC's Sixth Man of the Year on a team that lost the 2017 East Regional final to South Carolina.
Rick Barry shot his free throws with an underhand flip — referred to as "granny style" by detractors. His free throws kept dropping in softly over the front rim, but his approach continued to be disdained as an antidote for bad free-throw shooters.
Wilt Chamberlain, legendary bricklayer from the line, went underhanded for the 1961-62 season, which predated Barry's NBA arrival by four seasons.
Wilt made 61.3% of his free throws. He averaged an all-time record 50.4 points per game. He made 28 of 32 free throws when he scored 100 on March 2, 1962.
And then Wilt went back to a variety of ineffective overhand styles. Maybe he feared losing his billing as America's most macho athlete if he continued the underhand flip.
Two of Barry's sons, Jon and Brent, were NBA first-rounders and matched Rick's 14 seasons in the league. Oldest son Scooter played 17 seasons of pro ball, mostly in Europe. Drew was a second-rounder and played three seasons in the NBA.
They all shot free throws conventionally and were good at it. Plus, they weren't that influenced by Dad by the time they reached basketball maturity. He left the house shared with his wife, Pam, the four boys and daughter Shannon in August 1979.
Scooter was 13 then and, 12 years later, Sports Illustrated decided a public airing of Rick's parenting skills was needed with a long piece carrying the title "Daddy Dearest.''
By then, Rick was recently married to his third wife, Lynn Norenberg, an outstanding basketball player at William & Mary, Class of '82.
Rick and Lynn were on a canoe trip to the Grand Canyon in 1993 when Lynn came to believe she was pregnant, and that's how Barry's fifth son came to be named Canyon. He is 20 years younger than Drew, the next youngest of the five brothers.
Canyon is a summa cum laude graduate in physics, with a master's degree in nuclear engineering, but it's a basketball that drives him year-round:
A fourth-year G Leaguer here in Des Moines as a reserve with the Timberwolves affiliate, the Iowa Wolves, and a world-traveling, top-level competitor in the new, international world of 3X3 hoops in the summer and fall.
Best of all, he has also given the Barry legacy an underhand free thrower. He started copying Dad's flip as a junior in high school. He tossed in those 42 straight for the Gators; he makes 85% in the G League, where his minutes and opportunities have been limited with this winter's Iowa Wolves.
Prior to a game last week at Wells Fargo Arena, the Wolves were doing early shooting and Barry flipped in a free throw. A teammate came over, tried underhand and missed. Barry gave him an example; ball cradled on the sides, hands thrust upward, finishing with fingers wide open facing the basket.
Another teammate came over and made three in a row. He opened eyes wide, shrugged and walked away.
"Players are always intrigued, but I've never really converted anybody," Canyon said. "There was a player at Louisville who was shooting 'em this way, but I don't know if he stuck with it."
Barry is 6-6 and lean. He usually plays 10-15 minutes, takes a couple of shots, sets screens, competes for rebounds.
One certainty: The G League and the 3x3 circuit are places where every free throw is vital. The G League now has a rule where the traditional two-free throw situation is now one attempt — make it two points, miss it zero. And in 3x3, a free throw (they don't call many fouls) has the same one-point value as any field goal inside the three-point line.
"It's a great game; halfcourt, 10 minutes, and you have to be able to do everything," Barry said. "You can find a spot in NBA if you're excellent in one area — rebounding, defending, especially shooting the three — but in the three-player game … any real weaknesses are going to be exposed.
"We truly rely on each other."
Barry's mother had an executive position with USA Basketball for 11 years. Canyon is now part of the organization's 3x3 program, playing for what was Robbie Hummel's Princeton (Ind.) team.
He was injured before the 2021 Olympics and replaced on the roster by ex-Gopher Joey King. Princeton and Barry won a major tournament in Orlando last November, before the start of G League camp.
What's your Dad think of 3x3? "A 12-second shot clock, only two teammates to share the ball … he loves it," Canyon said.
How's his health? "He's in great shape for 77,'' Canyon said. "He discovered Pickleball. Loves that, too. Plays every day in Florida."