Inside the Numbers: The Year in Chick-fil-A at Washington Wizards Games | Wizards Blog Truth About

Inside the Numbers: The Year in Chick-fil-A at Washington Wizards Games

Updated: April 16, 2015

[In a city plagued by bitter partisan divide, one phrase unites us all, “Free chicken for everyone!”]

Anyone who has attended a Wizards game at the Verizon Center is familiar with the palpable sense of anticipation that permeates through the crowd any time an opposing player steps to the free throw line in the fourth quarter or overtime. If the player misses his first attempt, the crowd whips itself into a poultry-fueled frenzy that hits a crescendo as the ball rolls off the player’s fingertips on his second free throw attempt and—depending on the outcome of the shot—either explodes into raucous exaltation or dissipates into a collective groan.

It’s the Chick-fil-A Fowl Shot promotion, anointed by Grantland’s Zack Lowe as “perhaps the best free food promotion in the league” and celebrated by Wizards players, with Marcin Gortat leading the charge.

A cynic might mock Wizards fans for routinely cheering louder for free chicken than anything basketball-related. (They really do.) A behavioral economist might explore the irrational excitement associated with free things. But I am neither. I am just a guy interested in the facts—like how many free chicken sandwiches were won this season? Which players missed both free throws? What is the free throw percentage on the second free throw?

All these questions—and much, much more—are answered below. Let’s go inside the numbers.

How many times did an opposing player miss his first free throw in the fourth quarter or overtime? Forty-one (41) times during the regular season and four times during the preseason. That’s 45 opportunities for free chicken.

How many times did the opposing player miss his second free throw? Twelve (12) times in the regular season and twice in the preseason. That’s a total of 14 free sandwiches.

Without further ado, let’s meet the 2014-15 Chick-fil-A All-Stars:

Do the raucous crowds that rise to their feet after a player misses his first free throw have any effect on the outcome of the second free throw? The 41 players in the regular season who missed their first free throw in the fourth quarter/overtime shot a combined 70.7 percent (29-for-41) on their second free throw. By comparison, the free throw percentage for all opposing players at the Verizon Center this season was 75.6 percent (705-for-932).

Does this five percent dip mean the promotion works? Not really. Due to the limited sample size, it would take a statistical analysis worthy of the MIT Sloan Conference to reach a conclusion. For one thing, the group of 41 players, collectively, were below average shooters to begin with—which is not surprising since the one thing they have in common is missing their first free throw. You would also have to control for the fact that not all free throw attempts are created equal. When a player misses his first free throw, he likely shoots a higher-than-average percentage on the second attempt.

How did crunch-time shooters fare against the poultry-induced hysteria? On five occasions an opposing player missed his first free throw in crunch time (defined as overtime or under two minutes left in regulation with a margin of three points or less). Those opposing players (Jeff Teague, Shelvin Mack, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, and Kyle Lowry) all made their second free throws.

Do top shooters ever get rattled by the suddenly screaming crowds? Not surprisingly, top free throw shooters were best at avoiding chicken-fueled humiliation. Eleven players who shoot better than 80 percent missed their first free throw (Kyrie Irving, Jeff Teague, Ryan Anderson, Cole Aldrich, Brook Lopez, Kevin Durant, DeMar Derozan, Kyle Lowry, James Jones, P.J. Hairston, and John Jenkins). None missed their second.

How likely are you to get a shot at free chicken if you attend a Wizards game? 27 out of 41 regular season games and two out of three preseason games featured an opposing player missing his first free throw in the fourth quarter or overtime.

When it Rains it Pours: If you were looking for free chicken, late-February through March was the best time to visit the Verizon Center. During that period the second Fowl Shot was missed in six of nine games. Conversely, fans only received three free chicken sandwiches in the first 22 games of the season.

Individual Honors


Most Generous Opposing Player: Andre Drummond is the only player in the league to reward fans with a free sandwich multiple times this season. Drummond missed a pair in the first home preseason game on October 12 and again on Detroit’s final visit to the Verizon Center on February 28.

Double Dip: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist earns the ignominious honor of being the only player to miss two fourth-quarter free throws and then miss a second pair later in the same game.

Quickest Chick-fil-A: K.J. McDaniels took all the suspense out of the final period of a Washington blow-out by missing a pair of free throws only 41 seconds into the fourth quarter with the Wizards leading by 29 points. You can thank Kevin Seraphin for committing the early foul.

Longest Wait: Andre Iguodala rewarded fans who stayed until the end of the entertaining February 24 battle between John Wall and Stephen Curry. With 32 seconds remaining and Golden State leading by six points, Nene sent Iggy to the line. The sub-60 percent free throw shooter obliged the rowdy crowd and missed both.

Which Wizard is most likely to foul a Chick-fil-A All-Star? This should come as no surprise to Washington fans but Kevin Seraphin—the guy who plays a lot of fourth-quarter minutes and commits a lot of fouls—is the Wizard whose fouls have most often resulted in free Chick-fil-A. Seraphin committed the foul on four of the 12 regular season freebies.

Most Satisfying Chicken Sandwich: JaVale McGee only played 12 minutes in his return to the Verizon Center on December 5, but he delighted long-suffering Wizards fans with the highlight of the game when he predictably shanked two free throws with 2:14 left to play.

Most Clutch Avoidance of Chicken Embarrassment: Back on November 25, the Wizards trailed the Hawks by eight points with 34 seconds left in the game. Miraculously, Rasual Butler, Paul Pierce and Drew Gooden hit back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers to cut Atlanta’s lead to three with eight seconds remaining. John Wall intentionally fouled Jeff Teague and—with a chance to give Atlanta a two possession lead—he missed the first free throw, thus setting up the biggest free throw of the season from both a chicken and real-life perspective. Unfortunately, Teague nailed it. Atlanta’s clutch shooting did not end there.

After Teague’s free throw extended Atlanta’s lead to four points, Pierce hit a layup to cut the lead in half with two seconds remaining. Butler immediately fouled former-Wizard Shelvin Mack. He stepped to the line and missed his first attempt. Mack, no doubt familiar with the chicken-heightened magnitude of the moment, calmly sank his second attempt. That’s two successful Fowl Shots in the final eight seconds of a one possession game.

Most Surprising Escape: Fans who attended the February 7 Brooklyn Nets game were robbed of a free lunch. Darius Morris and Cory Jefferson, who shoot 44 and 56 percent from the stripe, respectively, both missed the front end on their trips to the line. Fans could not have asked for a better set up, yet Morris and Jefferson both hit the back end.

Still not satisfied?

TAI reached out to Chick-fil-A for even more information on everyone’s favorite give-away.

How did 2014-15 compare to previous years? About the same. Per a Chick-fil-A spokesperson, the promotion hit 14 times in 2013-14 and 11 times in 2012-13.

How many chickens have lost their lives due to poor fundamentals? According to Chick-fil-A, roughly 25 percent of tickets are redeemed from those in attendance each time the promotion is won. Based on Washington’s average attendance of 18,238, that’s 4,600 sandwiches per game times 14 (12 regular season games and two preseason games) for a total of 64,400.

What’s the Farthest a Fan has Travelled for a Free Sandwich? Per the Chick-fil-A marketing department, Wizards tickets have been redeemed as far away as Bristol, Tennessee, which is about 380 miles from the Verizon Center.

What was the Biggest Event in Fowl Shot Promotion History? According to Chick-fil-A: “The two biggest events in the ‘Fowl Shot’ promotion history were on 12/4/12 when LeBron James missed two Fowl shots. We had over 38 million impressions from that one event. We had people tweeting to LeBron, thanking him for the Free Chick-fil-A. Darren Rovell (CNBC & ESPN) tweeted ‘New favorite promotion: The Chick-fil-A Fowl Shot Promotion at Wizards game.’ That was the biggest singular event in the history of the ‘Fowl Shot’ promotion.”

“The second biggest event was this season: when Marcin Gortat was caught celebrating on camera during the fourth quarter of the Wizards’ 107-86 victory over the Miami Heat. Over the course of about two weeks we monitored over 25 media placements of the ‘Fowl Shot’ promotion with over 90.5 million impressions. It was covered in the Sports Business Journal, regularly written about in the Washington Post, discussed on the Keith Olbermann TV show, written about in Grantland, and other places too.”

Who came up with the promotion? Per a Chick-fil-A spokesperson, the fourth quarter give-away is the brainchild of John Natolly (Chick-fil-A owner/operator in Fairfax, VA), Bill Digges (Chick-fil-A owner/operator in Ashburn, VA) and Lew Strudler (Monumental Sports Senior Director, Corporate Partnerships).

What other teams have adopted the Fowl Shot give-away? The Utah Jazz are the only other NBA team with the promotion, but a Chick-fil-A spokesperson reports that the promotion has become so popular in D.C. that they run it with the Washington Mystics and Georgetown Hoyas.

It was quite a season for Chick-fil-A at the Verizon Center. I only have one complaint. If you open concession stands in the lower and upper concourses (which Chick-fil-A did this season) you have to serve waffle fries—these waffle potato chips just don’t cut it.


[A Chick-fil-A cow, a kid and Gheorghe Muresan judge the Wizards Media All-Star Trampoline Dunk Contest. February 10, 2015 — Verizon Center, Washington D.C.]

Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.