Washington

Dori: Eastside octogenarian free throw shooter nears one-millionth milestone

Sweaty palms? Cold feet? An occasional case of the yips?

Not for Tom Steury. Each time the 81-year-old Eastside man steps up to a free throw line to shoot a basketball, he’s armed with nerves of steel – and a darn fine follow-through.

It comes in handy because, as Steury told The Dori Monson Show Friday, he shoots at least 100 free throws every day. In fact, he’s been shooting dozens and dozens of buckets daily – and tracking them on a spreadsheet – since he was 66.

Now it’s all adding up. Steury told Dori’s listeners that he’s closing in on shooting his one-millionth free throw. As in 1,000,000.

After seeing Eric Johnson’s profile, the octogenarian on KOMO TV 4, Dori told Steury, it gave him “new hope” for staying active in sports as he ages.

A former high school and college intramural basketball player in Indiana, Steury said he competed regularly with guys about his age until about 15 years ago. Once those weekly games disappeared, he randomly picked up a basketball at his local gym one afternoon and started shooting.

“The next day, I went a shot a hundred more and put it on my calendar,” Steury said. Back then, he said his accuracy was between 80-82%.

Once his numbers grew, the Eastside hoop-aholic started tracking his string on a spreadsheet. In 2010, he also reached out to the Florida man considered the world record holder for free throws: Ted St. Martin, author of “The Art of Shooting Baskets.”

“I actually found his number in the White Pages. That’s back when we had White Pages,” Steury said.

As impressive as others consider Steury, Steury reveres St. Martin.

The Florida hoops coach once sunk 5,221 consecutive free throws, Steury told Dori’s listeners.

“That’s an awesome number. It took him seven hours and 20 minutes to do that without a miss,” Steury described. “Unbelievable. So, he’s my hero.”

What’s your best string? Dori asked.

“222, so I’m only 5,000 short,” Steury replied with a laugh.

But Steury’s spreadsheet also shows that his own overall accuracy has improved to 95%. In one stretch, he said, he was shooting 98% during a 400-shot hot streak.

Now, by Dori’s calculations, Steury is closing in on hitting 925,000 free throws. How’s he going to celebrate his million-shot milestone?

Steury said his family told him relatives wanted to fly to Seattle “and watch this happen,” so he set a date.

“Aug. 18,” he said. “That will be my 82nd birthday.”

Listen to Dori Monson weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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