“Some guys have been doing it for years, just trying to get an advantage. Any way you can get an advantage over the opponent to help your team win, so be it.”
-LeBron James, in reference to flopping
My mom noticed an online article about “flopping” the other day. She wasn’t familiar with the term and asked me what it meant, so here goes.
Dear, Mom. “Flopping” is the intentional act of drawing contact in an effort to sway an official’s call in favor of the defensive player. In that sense, it’s like a charge light, or rather a charge that wasn’t meant to be, until of course, the referee blows his whistle.
“Flopping” is a term that’s relatively new to the world of basketball, its actual origin unknown (most likely soccer). It should be noted, however, that the act itself has been going on in the league for years. These days, for some reason, we just happen to be exponentially more offended when it happens.
To the dismay of many a fan, flopping has gotten so out of hand in today’s NBA that last off-season, the commissioner’s office decided to levy fines against floppers for the first time in league history. The league’s bold act would certainly put an end to such a heinous crime, right?
In the early part of the Indiana Pacers-Miami Heat Eastern Conference Finals, flopping has reached unprecedented heights. In fact, LeBron James, David West and Lance Stephenson were all just fined $5,000 for their floptacity. Or is it flopticiousness?
Now let’s get a few things straight. While most fans can’t stand the flop, LeBron is 100% correct (see quote above). Flopping is an effective strategy if a) said flopper convinces the referee to miss the call and b) that results in a change in possession. NBA referees already have a tough enough job officiating contact. Flopping ups the ante.
Floppers get a bad rap, as if they’re cheaters. They’re not. They’re just bending the rules in their favor. Let not revisionist history blind our judgment. There are plenty of “floppers” already enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Reggie Miller was one of the best around, soliciting contact to get a call when he could, all the while getting under his opponents’ skin. That’s the point of the game, right?
In 2010, I wrote an article defending the flop. I likened the act of ‘faking the foul’ to an infielder pretending to tag second base while turning a double play (when he hadn’t) or a catcher framing a pitch a strike when it was actually a ball. Like the “flop,” both of these plays are intended to elicit a desired call from the umpire. And they often work. We laud a catcher for moving his mitt back into the strike zone yet lambast a defender in basketball for essentially doing the same thing.
When LeBron James was shoved by Bulls center Nazr Mohammed in the previous series, many, including Chicago’s head coach called LeBron a “flopper,” never mind the fact that a 6’10” player had just pushed him onto the parquet. Whichever version you believe, flopping has become an inherent part of the game, a strategy, if you will. Rest assured, a playoff loss far exceeds any measly, five thousand dollar fine.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of the flop but I understand why athletes do it and I don’t cast judgment on those who attempt to do so to benefit their team.
For those of you who disagree, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. In the end, basketball is a self-correcting sport. Flops may fly in the early parts of a playoff series but when it comes down to defending the basket in crunch time, an athlete will instinctively rely on his ability to block, steal or defend in a manner that will not include feigning contact.
It’s only when those natural instincts change that we should all be concerned about the state of the game.