At some point in the mid-1950s, Fred Feder began visiting his local gym in New York. He would go during his lunch break, stand behind the free-throw line, and shoot. Sometimes he would miss the basket; more often, he would make it. His style was unconventional (he never looked at the basket). His build wasn’t especially suited to the pursuit (he is short). He didn’t even play basketball (“Never played a game in my life,” he’s fond of saying). And still, he kept at it.
Now, more than two million free-throw shots later, Feder reveals all in a new memoir, Free Throw Wizard: 50 Years as a Free Throw Shooting Performer (Advantage Inspirational, $11).
Success at the foul line has eluded many greats of the sport. Shaquille O’Neal is bad at free-throwing. Wilt Chamberlain was awful. But not Fred Feder, who learned early on that by focusing on a point on the ceiling above him, he could achieve the perfect, rim-seeking arc with the ball. His specialty, on display through the years at countless mall-court demos and sports-retailer openings, was to shoot from behind a stack of cardboard boxes. “No one could beat me from behind the boxes,” he says. “I’ve asked many NBA stars to challenge me. None would.”
Feder will read from Wizard at Barnes and Noble in Asheville on Saturday, Sept. 13, from 1 to 3 p.m. “I’ll be signing books and showing a DVD of all my great moments,” he says—moments that included a cameo on Nickelodeon, appearances on any number of local-TV programs from New York to Florida, and a long, meditative sequence of Feder shooting from behind a fortress-like wall of gym mats. “It was spooky in there,” he recalls. “Like a different world.”
Feder lives today with his wife, Muriel, in Asheville. An injury a few years ago stripped him of the chance to further indulge his passion, but also had the unexpected effect of allowing him more time to promote his book. A July 29 appearance on the Take a Stand! with Matt Mittan radio show was well-received, and since the book’s release last month, Feder has been busy mailing copies to various VIPs and heads of state.
Recently he tried to send a copy to former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who attended the same high school as Feder, albeit a number of years later.
“I didn’t have his address, you know,” he says. “You don’t hear too much about him now that he’s left the administration.
“But I did send a copy to Condoleezza Rice. I told her, ‘I don’t need to know where he is, but could you send it to him, please?’”