Ed Palubinskas


The Free Throw Master


BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A no-hitter, bowling a 300 game, hitting the bull's eye. It is said that the pursuit of perfection breeds excellence, and one local artist has had his taste of both. (continued below)...

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Choose from the large selection of latest pre-made blocks - full-screen intro, bootstrap carousel, content slider, responsive image gallery with lightbox, parallax scrolling, video backgrounds, hamburger menu, sticky header and more.

Ed Palubinskas is a bit of a mess. The back of his pick-up truck is stuffed full of boxes, paint cans, rollers, and other tools of your average mural painter. On Friday afternoon, he was digging through old plastic bags looking for three pints of paint that have mysteriously disappeared. 

"Einstein and all those guys who did great things, they never organized their stuff," he said. And that is good enough for Ed. 

He may be no Einstein, but he has pursued greatness all his life. The last thirty years was as a painter, but that was not his original plan. 

In college, Ed wanted to be a college basketball coach. That was when he learned he had a different talent. 

"I did a portrait of every player, and they put it in the media guide," he said. 

Besides the portraits, Ed drew the cover of the guide that year. "I look back now, it's kind crude."

Thirty years later with his basketball dreams far behind him, art seems to shoot from his mind to the brick wall he is airbrushing. 

"If you're going to be a great shooter, or great at any business, God is in the details," he said. 

And it's that pursuit of greatness, that attention to detail that endeared him to legions of LSU basketball fans in the early 1970s. People might remember Ed better as No. 10, the Free-throw Master. 

Back then, he set the record for free-throw percentage (92.4 percent), consecutive free throws in a game (14), and consecutive free throws in a season (43). He was the second leading scorer in the Munich Olympics in 1972, and he set the Guinness Book of World Records for free throws at more than 1,200 without a miss. He also shot 85 percent from the free-throw line -- blindfolded. 

These days, when Ed is not looking for lost paint cans in the back of his truck, he is coaching NBA stars, like Dwight Howard and Brandon Bass, and middle schoolers alike on the focus, the drive and the practice it takes to strive for perfection in sports and in life. 

"I really believe we have a duty to find out what our gifts are," he said from his perch atop a ladder, dabbing paint on the egret taking shape on the wall. "Michelangelo saw the Statue of David inside a rock. Chiseled away, and all of a sudden, it's a fancy sculpture." 

In Ed's eyes, we are all great artists. We just have to find our medium, and work at it. 

Copyright 2016 WAFB. All rights reserved. 

We qualify for nationals next year in Cleveland

Team "Nobody" wins gold in Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah, Oct. 10-15, 2012. Winners in our 60-65 age group. Now recognized as "somebody".

Dwight Howard hires Ed Palubinskas to be his shooting coach

Magic center Dwight Howard is working with shooting coach Ed Palubinskas, the career free-throw percentage leader at LSU. (Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel)

Ed Palubinskas In The News

Shaquille O'Neal takes a lot of ribbing for his poor free throw shooting. In the loss to the host Nuggets on Feb. 28, fans sitting behind the backboard mocked O'Neal's poor free-shooting by wearing hard hat's. O'Neal, a 44 percent throw shooter, went 7 for 15. USA Today reports that Ed Palubinskas, O'Neal most recent free throw shooting coach, won a foul-shooting competition and the $20,000 prize at the Havenport Basketball Skills Championships in Winnipeg recently. Palubinskas converted 75 of 75 attempts. Including warmups, Palubinskas converted 115-of-116. The Lakers are less than enthused about the prospect of playing in Japan in October. The Long Beach Press-Telegram reports the league has not made a formal announcement yet, but it appears the Lakers will be the one of the teams playing exhibition games in Tokyo. "the best thing about it is that if it does happen, it will happen in the exhibition season rather than the regular season, "Coach Phil Jackson said "there's a lot of positives about it. There's some drawbacks....And if this works out and we do go there, it will be a good occasion for us, culturally and hopefully exchange-wise."

Dwight Howard revamping his shot; Working with mystery coach – NBA Update

There is bad news for teams that aren’t named Orlando Magic.

Dwight Howard is getting even better this offseason. Howard, who plays as centre for the Orlando Magic, is undoubtedly the best in his position on the planet. The dominating big man revealed in a recent interview that he was working to revamp his shot for the better.

Howard is one of the most physically dominating players in the game and added some new offensive moves to his arsenal last season. Howard had worked with NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon last summer, something he is doing again this summer.

Apart from being a force of nature on offence, Dwight has also officially been the best defensive player in the league for the past three seasons. The one weakness in Dwight’s game is believed to be his shooting, but he says he is readdressing that fact this offseason.

(continued below)...

Howard has been working with a mystery coach to overhaul his shot, which seems to have been going well so far. The player refused to disclose the identity of the coach because of contract issues. However, he says the practice is going really well and he is already feeling an improvement. 

"It's looking a lot better," said Howard. "I've been working with him a week and he's changed my shot tremendously."

Dwight improved as a shooter last season and showed good touch. Although his shooting wasn’t devastating, opponents still had to close him out quicker because the threat was there. That opens up a lot more opportunities for Howard. So if the 6-foot-11 player can truly get a good rhythm to his shooting he might just become unstoppable on the offensive end.

That is a scary thought for the rest of the league, what with Howard already having 40+ point games in the playoffs last season.

At the moment though the player is concentrating on other issues and is not yet in top gear. He has some charity commitments and then promotional tours coming up, especially a big one to China where his popularity is on the rise.

After Dwight is done with all that he plans to return to the United States and start getting into shape for the new season,

"Then I'll be done and I'll be here training," he said. "We'll have to get everybody together and get ready for the season."

Unlike other super star players in the NBA, Howard wants to stay in the United States and concentrate on training to improve his game. Most star names in the league seem more interested in flirting with European teams to get a playing gig until the lockout ends.

By Josh Robbins Orlando Sentinel
7:50 p.m. EDT, August 25, 2011

In his quest to become a better free-throw shooter, Dwight Howard has turned to a man who bills himself as the "Shooting Surgeon General" and the "Free-Throw Master."

Howard is working with shooting coach Ed Palubinskas, an Australian sharpshooter who played in the 1972 and 1976 Summer Olympics and is the career free-throw percentage leader at LSU. Palubinskas has worked with Orlando Magic power forwardBrandon Bass and also briefly worked with Shaquille O'Neal .

Palubinskas had attempted to work with Howard for at least a year.

In May 2010, Palubinskas sent an e-mail message to the Orlando Sentinel in which he said that he had written and called Howard to offer his services but had received no response.

"I will completely change his numbers in less than one week and you won't recognize him," Palubinskas wrote then.

Howard is a career 59.8 percent free-throw shooter.

After the 2010-11 season ended, Howard announced he would hire a shooting coach. He conducted interviews with at least several potential hires before he picked Palubinskas.

Palubinskas, who made 87.5 percent of his free throws at LSU, has said he has been a 99 percent free-throw shooter for the last quarter of a century.
On his website, Palubinskas writes that he once made 1,206 of 1,265 free-throw attempts in one hour.

In 2009, the Sentinel interviewed Palubinskas after the Magic made only 22 of 37 foul shots in Game 4 of the NBA Finalsagainst the Los Angeles Lakers.

"Here we are with multimillion-dollar, superb, phenomenal athletes, and millions of people are watching [the Finals] and saying, 'I don't believe it,' " Palubinskas said then. "I believe it because their mechanics are so flawed."

jbrobbins@tribune.com. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog. Subscribe to our Orlando Magic newsletter at OrlandoSentinel.com/joinus.

Aussie advisor Shaqs up with O'neal, by Tim Morrissey 
Sunday Telegraph

The Runnin' Rebels basketball gym at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, was full of hoop hustlers, street ballers and playground stars shooting for money.

In walks Ed Palubinskas, the former and mostly forgotten Australian Boomers star from the 70s.

No one would have given the 50-year-old hoopster a second look, let alone known who he was.

But they do now after Palubinskas effortlessly made 75 consecutive free throws to pocket $50,000 at the Havenport Basketball Skills Championships this year.

"I've missed three free throws in competition over the last 15 years."

Through his career, from his college days at Louisiana State University through to the '72 and '76 Olympics, Palubinskas had a reputation as a pure shooter.

But scratch the surface and you'll find a mix between Paul Newman's character "Fast Eddie" Felson in the movie The Hustler and cockney used car salesman and entrepreneur Arthur Daley.

He could sell sand to the Arabs...well, not quite, but he did once sell himself to Saudia Arabia as their National Handball Coach. That was shortly after Palubinskas, the leading scorer at 1976 Montreal Olympics, disappeared from the Australian scene.

His latest venture is the toughest job in sport.

Palubinskas is teaching Los Angeles Lakers star centre Shaquille O'Neal, the highest player in basketball at $20 million per year, to shoot free throws.

Anyone who's seen the most feared man in the NBA step to the line knows turning Shaq's monstrously ugly, brick-laying action from the foul line into work of art is about as hard as it gets.

Many have tried and failed to take this foul-line Frankenstein and recreate a Da Vinci masterpiece-but Palubinskas believes he can help Shaq and told him so.

You can imagine Palubinskas having a quiet word in Shaq's ear. "Don't you worry ol' son, I'll take care of everything."
Well, maybe not quite in these words, but Palubinskas did talk his way into the job.

"I was sick and tired of listening to people all over the country laugh and criticize Shaq's free throwing" Palubinskas said. "Everyone is bitchin' and moaning but no one had a real solution.

"I got so fed up with all this rubbish, so I wrote to his agent Leonard Armato who I scored 32 points against in college. I killed him in that game.

"That was our connection, so I wrote him a nice letter saying that I'm the solution to Shaq's problem"

Palubinskas knows Shaq will take care of him if he can cure his free throw ills.

However, Fast Eddie could grow old before he gets a chance to cash in on his creation: a new and improved Shaq.
Last season at the Mira Costa High School gym where Palubinskas and Shaq regularly work out, all but one player on the girls team had a better free throw shooting percentage than O'Neal's 44.8 percent.

This year has been a slow and onerous task with the big fellow shooting a cold 46.3 percent from the free line this season.
But over the past three months Shaq's percentage has been climbing from 47.9 percent in January to 54.3 percent in February to 57.9 percent in March.

"I swear, we're shooting about 84 percent in practice," said Palubinskas whose goal is to get Shaq shooting 70 percent by season end.

Shaq better at line, thanks to shot 'surgeon'
USA Sports

Ed Palubinskas does not play for the Los Angeles Lakers. He's never scored a point for them. But he might be one the most important factors in how far the lakers go this season.

He's Shaquille O'Neal's free throw coach, his self proclaimed "right-hand man." his goal is to eradicate the "Hack-a-Shaq" defenses opposing coaches employ at the end of tight games that often send O'Neal to the bench at crunch time.

So far, so good. O'Neal is hitting nearly 57% of his free throws since the All-Star break, up from his low of 37.2% in December, including 0-for-11 in a dec. 8 loss to Seattle. Entering Wednesday, the Lakers 40-19) were 9-3 since the break.

"He's completely reinvented his shot," says Palubinskas, who calls himself a "shooting surgeon".

Hack at own risk: Shaquille O'Neal has hit 56.8% of his foul shots since Feb. 7.

He calls O'Neal, who isn't talking about free throw shooting, an "anatomical anomaly, with dysfunctional bone structure" due to an old wrist injury, which is why his elbows flare when he shoots.

"We've made his shot more mechanical," he says. "We're taking it away from him and giving it to science. We've realigned all the angles, speeded up his release and taken the ball out the palm of his fingertips. "He's finally getting a grip on it, pardon the pun."

Palubinskas, 50. an All-SEC guard at LSU in the 1970s, first worked with O'neal when the 7-1 center played there in the early 90s. Palubinskas has made an exact science of free throws, sinking 1,572 of 1,575 in 15 years of shooting contests. He got tired of hearing how O'Neal couldn't shoot free throws and offered his help.

He says O'Neal shoots 300 to 500 free throws a day in practice and makes 84-87% of them. He says Shaq can even make 50% of them blindfolded.

"Since I started with him in November, he's up almost 10% a month," Palubinskas says, "My realistic goal for him is between 65-70%.

"I told Shaq his shooting wouldn't really take off until he started dreaming about me. Three or Four weeks later, he said, “Ed I'm finally dreaming about you.”

A true charity stripe artist...
By Brad Rock
Deseret News sports writer

As good as he is, Kobe Bryant needs help. Karl Malone could benefit from a session, too. A day with John Stockton and he'd be stroking free throws in the mid-90s.

At least that's what Ed Palubinskas is selling. The self-proclaimed world's greatest free throw shooter is back in the news. He's been there before as a member of the Australian Olympic team and a standout guard at Louisiana State in the 70's.

"But this," says Palubinskas is huge." "This" is his latest project: reclaiming Shaquille O'Neal's free throw shot. Actually, not reclaiming but remaking.

Breaking it down from the pre-shot dribble right on through to the ripple of the net-or in O'Neal's case, the clang of the rim. Palubinskas has been hired to get the Laker's center to a respectable level from the line.

Go ahead, laugh, Palubinskas loves it, lack of confidence isn't one of his weaknesses. He contends there's never been a shooter. "I'm a 99 percent free throw shooter," he say's. "I'd say 100 percent, because I'll make 300 in a row, but by saying 99 percent, it allows for the human factor."

Palubinskas, who lives in Baton Rouge, La., is a former head coach at East Carbon High in Sunnyside and East High in Salt Lake. He's developed a thriving business, painting logos on gym floors and doing tile mascot mosaics. But his real job, his passion, is shooting. At a recent national competition he made all 75 of his free throws and 68 of 75 three point shots, winning $25,000. No other contestants won a nickel. He claims to have made 1,572 of 1,575 free throws in national contests. At a shooting exhibition at last years Final Four, he claims to have made 598 straight free throws "just to win a T-shirt".

He has produced two videotapes. The first is called "Secrets to Perfect Shooting Principles." So maybe they're not secrets anymore. The latest video is "The Shooters' Lab"

Palubinskas grew up in Australia, fall in love with hoops long before Luc Longley or Andrew Gaze arrived. He played at Ricks College and followed Pete Maravich at LSU.

However bombastic - think Crocodile Hunter in gym clothes-it's hard to argue his point. Most high school players shoot in the 60s from the free throw line. College players shoot in the low in the low 70s, and NBA players in the mid-70s. That’s only a 5 percent to 7 percent improvement from high school to the NBA.

Palubinskas began working with O'neal last October. It wasn't an immediate success, as witnessed by 48 percent percent success rate from the line.

But lately he's been on a rampage. Friday he landed a 10 of 13 against Washington. Wednesday against Milwaukee he made 10 of 13. Two nights earlier he made nine of 12 against Atlanta. As Shaq said himself, get the free throws going and he's a perfect player.

The obvious question is if Palubinskas has been working with Shaq since October, why did it take until now to start working? Fast Eddie has an answer. His student has been in a "gestation period," or evolutionary stage. He told O'Neal last fall, "There a process, and two things are going to happen. first, you are going to destroy my reputation. My ego is healthy enough that I can take it. I'll hate to have it printed that Palubinskas teaches Shaq free throw shooting stinks, but... "Second, it's going to work, and I'm going to do a tremendous service nationally. My goal is to revolutionize the shooting industry,"

As I said, he isn't lacking confidence. He call his plan "complex in its simplicity and simple in its complexity." He teaches the shooter not to concentrate on making shots, but to purify the process so there is no guesswork. He also works on the mental aspect, where the shooter learns that every time he misses there's a correctable reason. If the process is perfect, so is the shot.

Does it work? Let he who has made 300 straight free throws in a row cast the first brick. He insists O'Neal regularly make 85 percent in practice.
But wait! Could he even fix Olden Polynice? "I can fix anybody," he says. He's going to revolutionize the industry.

Lakers Still Look Down at the Pacific April 18, 2001
Pro basketball: Shaq is perfect in 13 tries at line in division-title-clinching win over Denver. Streaking L.A. to face Portland in playoffs.
By TIM BROWN, LA Times Staff Writer

The Lakers' uneven regular season ended evenly enough Tuesday night, with an eighth consecutive victory, news of a first-round NBA playoff matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers and Shaquille O'Neal at the free-throw line knocking down foul shots with unusual precision.

In one last formality, the Lakers defeated the Denver Nuggets, 108-91, at Staples Center, for a 56-26 record and their second consecutive Pacific Division title. The Sacramento Kings can match the Laker record tonight with a victory over the Nuggets, but the Lakers hold the tiebreaker and have clinched the No. 2 seeding. So, the Western Conference playoffs pick up where they left off last season, with the Trail Blazers, in turmoil, looking for the points and the game to overturn the suddenly capable Lakers.

O'Neal made all 13 of his free throws, a personal best, scored 33 points, took 13 rebounds, shook the arena with a couple of cross-over dribbles and finished the season on an MVP-style roll. He scored at least 31 points in his final 11 games. As a result, partly, the Laker winning streak is the longest to end a season in franchise history.

"Portland is one of the best teams in the Western Conference still, and in order for us to win the conference championship we're going to have to go through the best," Laker guard Brian Shaw said. "We're going to get tested in the first round, so we just have to be prepared and come ready to play. If we can get past that, we'll be ready for whatever we have to face the rest of the way."

It will help to be bringing a confident O'Neal. As he rested on the bench with the final minutes falling away, O'Neal made eye contact with Ed Palubinskas, his shooting coach, smiled and raised his eyebrows. Only four months ago, O'Neal had missed each of 11 free throws, breaking Wilt Chamberlain's all-time single-game record.

Asked how he did it, O'Neal said, "Because I felt like it. I can do it. I put in a lot of work."

Laker Coach Phil Jackson entered the postgame news conference, sighed, and said, "Well, that wraps it up."

Kobe Bryant scored 26 points, and the Lakers held the Nuggets to 40 second-half points, but the news was O'Neal and his free throws.

"That was a big thing for us, a high note of the evening for sure," Jackson said. "[He was] very confident on the free-throw line. It was nice to see him there."

There were 20 minutes left in their regular season, 20 minutes before the real defense of their championship would commence, and Bryant stood at the top of the key, basketball over his head, eyes on O'Neal.

O'Neal jab-stepped right and went to the basket. Bryant flung the ball on a long arc, an alley-oop pass that O'Neal grabbed and dunked in one powerful motion.

Bryant turned and grinned, clenched his fist and stuck out his tongue.

From the dreariness of a first half when they didn't appear to expect much fight out of the Nuggets, the Lakers outscored Denver, 16-2, to start the second half.

"Our confidence is extremely high right now," Bryant said. "We're playing very good defensively. Today we came in at half-time and said that in the third quarter we're going to have to have some stops to hold them down. We were able to do that. It's one thing to say it and try to execute and have difficulty, but we were able to carry it out."

Bryant wore his very yellow Adidas sneakers, the same ones he wore in the All-Star game. He calls them his "sunshines," and wears them most practice days.

He scored 17 points in the first half, then eight in a frenetic first few minutes of the third quarter. On ankles that still aren't exactly right, Bryant threw in a fastbreak dunk and a hanging, what-gravity? lay-up in a runaway quarter for the Lakers, who didn't mind seeing the season end a quarter early.
Of them all, Bryant will most benefit from the break before the start of the first round this weekend.

"I think, defensively, I still see some improvement needed," Jackson said. "Offensively, his shot's a little flat. Other than that, he's doing good."

Shaq's Having Sweep Dreams April 29, 2001
NBA playoffs: In a series he has dominated, Laker center expects more of the same against short-handed Trail Blazers.
By TIM BROWN, LA Times Staff Writer

PORTLAND, Ore.--Matched now against Arvydas Sabonis, then Antonio Harvey, then Rasheed Wallace, then the next to make the critical mistake of eye contact with Mike Dunleavy, Shaquille O'Neal allowed himself a moment Saturday afternoon.
Reclined in a baseline seat at the Rose Garden while hail clattered at the roof above him, O'Neal acknowledged he's having a pretty good time in these playoffs. "We shouldn't change anything," he said.

The Lakers lead the best-of-five series with the Portland Trail Blazers two games to none, with the chance to sweep this afternoon. The only flaw in last year's championship came in moments such as this, with a foe in trouble and the Lakers' attention in the round to come, so they're still sweating the reeling, fractured, undermanned Trail Blazers.

The Lakers haven't swept a post season series since 1991, when they beat the Houston Rockets in three games.

"We might not react well to the adversity of this court," Laker Coach Phil Jackson said. "You never can tell what can happen. That's one of the situations we have to address as a basketball team; that's having poise and control, and I wasn't totally pleased with all of that [Thursday] night."

Among the reasons the Lakers have edged so near to the second round is O'Neal, whose game has grown as big as Trail Blazer owner Paul Allen's fortune, or as his disappointment, whichever is larger today.

And now the Trail Blazers are without Dale Davis and Stacey Augmon, suspended for Game 3 because Davis swung an elbow Thursday night and Augmon rushed onto the court to do what, exactly, no one's sure. With Davis go six more fouls on O'Neal, which means more minutes for Sabonis, who has had his own issues with foul trouble and fatigue.

Not only do the Trail Blazers lack the man to guard O'Neal, but now they lack the manpower as well. Sabonis probably can't stay with O'Neal for 40 minutes, but he shouldn't feel towel-whipped over it.

"Nobody can," O'Neal said. "Not even Goldberg. Or the Undertaker. All those wrestling guys. I'm a football player that plays basketball. A hockey player too, except I can't skate."

O'Neal has averaged 28 points and 16 rebounds in the two playoff games. The Lakers have won 10 in a row, and O'Neal is feeling a rush from it.
"The older I get the better I get," said O'Neal, who turned 29 last month. "For me, I'll probably walk away from the game at the T. Right now I'm at B-E-S-. When I come to the T, then I'll just walk away. I don't see myself playing to where I can't walk or can't run.

"I've got good teammates around me. I'm wiser, playing a lot smarter. It's just that in order for me to be at that greatness level, I've got to have all cylinders going. I've always had game, but I had some problems at the free-throw line. You people held that against me. Now I'm shooting them well."

There you have it--Eddie Palubinskas is going to make Shaq retire early. Wallace might spare a T. He has got plenty. More likely, O'Neal's T will arrive closer to 2006, when his contract expires, the final year paying more than $32 million.

"I don't know," he said. "A couple years, maybe. One, two or three years."

More importantly, for the moment, is when the Trail Blazers will go away.

"I think we know they aren't gone until they're eliminated," Laker guard Derek Fisher said. "We learned that last season. This is personal for all of us."

Even as the Trail Blazers floundered through two games, the Lakers continued to give them the puncher's chance to win Game 3. Not literally, though they wouldn't entirely rule that out, either.

"Who's the new world champion now?" Rick Fox said. "[Hasim] Rahman? Trust me, they've still got a right somewhere in their arsenal. If we come out like Lennox Lewis, nonchalant and careless and disrespect their abilities, we could catch a blow that knocks us back. And it could be too late to get up in the third or fourth quarter.

"Things seem to be splintering around them. When you smell blood, you have to pounce on that. You have to capitalize. It can't be a situation like the team last year that felt sorry for people and let them get up a little."

They're afraid that's all they'd need.

"In our situation, we're [facing] a team we don't want to unite," Jackson said. "We don't want them to get a vision or a hope. I told the team we want to keep a foot in their neck."

STROKE of GENIUS April 19, 2001
It Didn't Look Like a Percentage Move, but Eddie Palubinskas, an Australian Free-Throw Phenom, Made It His Mission and Got Shaq Untracked.
By TIM BROWN, Times Staff Writer

The man who saved the Laker season is 50 years old, with eyes blue as pool water, a rickety gait, and a plan to teach the world how to shoot free throws a driveway at a time, if that's what it takes.

The man who saved the Laker season regards himself as the Johnny Appleseed of jump shots, dropping seeds of shooting-stroke wisdom on a public of bricklayers bereft of touch.

To prove his gift, six months ago he chose as his pupil the largest and most challenged among us.

And Tuesday night at Staples Center, before God, James Naismith, Tex Winter and, out there somewhere, Don Nelson, Shaquille O'Neal fired 13 free throws and made every single one of them, free-throw perfection from the imperfect shooter.

Eddie Palubinskas, the man who saved the Laker season, sat four rows from the floor. In time, he turned off his video camera, lowered it to the table before him and simply watched the last few shots fall.

On Wednesday morning he left Los Angeles, unsure if he'd be back.

His work, as superheroes often say, was done here.

As the Lakers rested Wednesday, the first day of their postseason, they did so with the notion that O'Neal is as whole and dangerous as he's ever been, armed with O'Neal's ferocity and Eddie's foul shot.

"I told Shaq on Day One, 'This is bigger than me and you,' " Palubinskas said. "'This is for the whole country. If we can do this, I want to help every little kid. Every mom and dad. If a kid can shoot, he's got a future. So, if you get better, Shaq, you are touching everybody. Everybody."
And they were off. . . .

Palubinskas is a plucky Australian who attended Louisiana State and played for Coach Dale Brown 15 years before O'Neal did, and then served as a volunteer shooting coach for O'Neal's 1990-91 team. Between stints at LSU, he was a star on two Australian Olympic teams, averaging 33.1 points in the 1976 Summer Games. He was a high school basketball coach in Utah and Louisiana, and now makes a living as an artist and a nationally decorated free-throw shooter, just this month making 523 consecutive free throws at an exhibition at the Final Four in Minneapolis.

More than a year ago, he began faxing Leonard Armato, O'Neal's agent, with offers to reunite with O'Neal, to help where so many others failed.

"I started really feeling deep, sincere sympathy for the guy," Palubinskas said. "It just didn't make sense that we couldn't fix this."
Interest from the O'Neal camp was lukewarm, at best, and then O'Neal was named NBA most valuable player and the Lakers won their championship and Palubinskas figured it just wouldn't work out.

O'Neal thought otherwise. After a handful of faxes, Palubinskas arrived at the Lakers' doorstep on Nov. 1, with a two-month contract from O'Neal and a plan to change the world, starting with O'Neal, free throw by free throw.

"It's a spiritual thing for me," Palubinskas said. "I've been so blessed in my life. As a small [6 feet 1] white guy, I've played every level of basketball. I've gotten every award possible. So, it's doable. By being blessed, I'm looking at what's my value in life. If I can't give back, after what I've been blessed with, even though it's stupid shooting baskets, down the road I'm hoping I did well."

Palubinskas' theory of revolution is part mechanical, part Zen, part angles, part flow. He has terms for the four possible breakdowns in a free throw, from the anatomical anomaly to behavioral dysfunction, cognitive deficiency and habitual inconsistency. Everybody has at least one. Everybody but Palubinskas.


"Oh," Palubinskas said, "he had all of them. We had to totally reinvent the shot." It was a matter of 18 inches. Six inches of flex each at the knees, right elbow and right wrist, all fired together in the name of a single point.

"Grip, dip and rip," Palubinskas said.

"Clank, bank and rank" was more like it, everything but "sank."

On Dec. 8, O'Neal missed all 11 free throws, a horrid thing that actually knocked Wilt Chamberlain from league records, and his season shooting percentage fell to .385. Two weeks later, his shooting percentage was .373.

About that time, Coach Phil Jackson said the Lakers wouldn't win consistently until O'Neal made his free throws. It was costing them points and, in some instances, the Lakers lost close games with O'Neal, the sport's most dominant player, on the bench in the fourth quarter, Jackson guarding against the Hack-a-Shaq.

All the while, O'Neal and Palubinskas were getting closer, 100 practice shots at a clip, 500 or more in a night, sometimes until 11 p.m. Then, as O'Neal practiced, Palubinskas turned up the music in the gym, he danced in front of him and shouted insults, to test his concentration.

"I said, 'Shaq, when you start seeing me in your dreams, you better let me know, because that's when we can start really shooting,' " Palubinskas said. "Forty-five days later, he said, 'Ed, I was dreaming about you.' I said, 'Shaq, I've been dreaming about you for three years.' Then I thought, 'Gosh, this is not good, that I'm dreaming more of Shaq than I do my wife. That's sad.' "

So came the gradual proficiency. O'Neal stopped hitting the front of the rim. The basketball jerked out of his hands less and less. The shots all started to look similar, even if they didn't all fall.

In his last 17 games, O'Neal is 175 for 263 from the line, 66.5%. No longer fearful of the line, O'Neal has unleashed his most aggressive game, bulling over lesser centers who are left with the options of fouling him or being scored on.

He finished the season with 11 consecutive games of at least 31 points. The Lakers, sagging from inconsistent play and peripheral issues of chemistry, jumped on, riding him to a franchise-record eight consecutive victories to end their season and the second seeding in the Western Conference playoffs, their season saved by O'Neal's free throws, and by the man who gifted them to him.

"Now, the press, when they talk about free-throw shooting, it's not a knife in his heart," Palubinskas said. "It's more pleasant. He can discuss it if he wants to. And he'll open up because he's doing it more consistently.

"My dream is to have the playoffs, the seventh game, one second left, Shaq on the line, one-and-one. That would be just suicidal for me. I'd fall to pieces. But that stuff with Shaq is building up. That's the true champion he is. He doesn't want this legacy of these free throws hanging over his head, so he's incomplete. . . . And now, the playoffs, and he wants the ball. Man, oh man."

Eddie Palubinskas, the man who saved the Laker season, smiled and laughed. One down. Lots of jumpers to go. He can't wait to get started.

Ed Palubinskas
                     Email: eddiepusa@yahoo.com
Phone: 225-288-6676
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