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I've noticed in the NBA that when a player takes a foul shot, they're usually surrounded by other players lined up around the box. But sometimes when a player is shooting a foul shot, they're completely alone.

What is the difference between these two foul shooting situations?

alone

not alone

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There are two kinds of foul shots, those that end in possession of the shooting team, and those that are up for grabs on a miss but awarded to the opposing team on a make.

Normal foul shots on personal fouls are the second kind. Both teams are free to rebound a miss and the non-shooting team is awarded the ball on a make.

However, for flagrant fouls and technical fouls the team that shoots the free throws is awarded the ball regardless of the result of the shot. Since the rebound cannot be contested the player is allowed to shoot by himself.

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  • The clearing of the paint is also an additional disincentive for players to commit flagrants and technicals; because nobody's around, the shooter doesn't have six men staring him down. Other than the crowd behind the glass backboard, he might as well be shooting free-throws on the shooting court in his home or team gym, and players spend many hours a week doing just that so theoretically he's more likely to make the shot. – KeithS Sep 27 '12 at 16:01
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It happens when the free-throw is a result of Technical foul.
Technical foul is particularly difficult foul or foul that is incompatible with the "Spirit of the game".
In the NBA, the penalty for a Technical foul is one free throw for the rival team and after it possession on the ball.

So in the case of technical foul there isn't a need that there will be players around the end-line.

There is also unsportsmanlike technical foul.
From NBA rule book:

A technical foul shall be assessed for unsportsmanlike tactics such as:
(1) Disrespectfully addressing an official
(2) Physically contacting an official
(3) Overt actions indicating resentment to a call
(4) Use of profanity
(5) A coach entering onto the court without permission of an official
(6) A deliberately-thrown elbow or any attempted physical act with no con-tact involved
(7) Taunting

I also seen cases when there isn't any offence players around the throwing player because it's the first throw or because they count on him to score or don't want to be causght surprise in fast break.

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