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Mama and I were introduced to Rob Free-Throw Guy back when we lived over in NW Portland and watched the Trail Blazers on TV, being broadcast by Mike Rice and Mike Barrett. Since I became season ticket holder, I've witnessed him in action. Last season I sat at the north end of the arena, this season at the south end, directly in line with where he sits behind the goal. Here are a few photos I took of him distracting a Utah Jazz player at the free throw line. Follow his success from the big photo over the to top right corner, down that side of the collage and then left across the bottom. In the corner photo, he's holding up one finger which means he, Rob Free-Throw Guy, got one!
Here's an article I read about him online, dated April 3, 2011:
Robert Ems, Portland Trail Blazers ‘Free Throw Guy,’ Statistically Impacting Opponent Shooting at Rose Garden
We’ve seen them hundreds of times. In just about every college basketball arena — and a fair number of NBA buildings — there’s always some ridiculous looking guy trying to distract opposing shooters at the free throw line.
Sometimes, they wear costumes. Sometimes, they wear next to nothing. Sometimes, they hold up giant “hypnosis twirlers.” The one universal trait, however, is that they pretty much always gesture frantically right as the shooter is about to put up his attempt.
But, it doesn’t actually work, right?
Well, according to the Columbian, Robert Ems, the Portland Trailblazers “Free Throw Guy,” has made a statistically significant effect on games.
Ems, a 27-year-old stock trader, holds season tickets behind the basket that the opposing team faces in the second half. Generally, teams shoot 0.1 percent better from the line in the second half than in the first half, but that’s not the case at the Rose Garden.
When facing Ems — which visitors do in the second half — opponents are shooting just 72 percent from the line, as opposed to 78 percent when not facing the “Free Throw Guy.” Last season, the trend was the same. Opponents shot 75.8 percent when not facing Ems, but just 71.5 percent when under his spell.
If you go back to 2005-06 at the Rose Garden — before Ems had his tickets — the numbers were the expected 76 percent for the first half and 76.1 percent for the second half. Given that the Blazers give up 23 opponent free throw attempts per game, one could estimate that 11.5 are occurring in the second half.
Given that six percent difference in shooting rates that can be attributed to Ems, he’s contributing about 0.6 points of defense per game to Portland.
Perhaps your team needs a “Free Throw Guy” too.