By Jacob Hudson
“Name something that flops:” a fish, movie, business, flip-flops, NBA players? If you were on Family Feud, Steve Harvey himself might give a chuckle and a wink to that last answer, because even the novice basketball fan knows all too well that flopping is becoming a staple play in the NBA these days. As Thomas Neumann of ESPN.com put it, “these are the glory days of flopping in the NBA.” According to NBA.com, flopping is defined as “any physical act that appears to have been intended to cause the referees to call a foul on another player.” Flopping goes on almost every game these days; a player puts on a terrific display of theatrical, Shakespearean performance for the referees as they fall, flail, and tumble from a simple nudge on the elbow. The worst part is that the biggest name floppers are also some of the biggest names in the game! Lebron James and Chris Paul could win Oscars with their remarkably dramatic performances over the years. Because of the excessive amount of flopping in the NBA, the association has gone so far as to issue an anti-flopping policy within the league that issues fines of certain degrees to players who decide to dabble in the thespian arts one game. Now is that a little extreme? I mean athletes are “entertainers” right? Come on now NBA, bad on you for thinking athletes should just be athletes and actually play sports fair and honorable. The flop is an art form in the game and only few can master it, funny how the masters of flopping are also the masters of the game of basketball.
Imagine what these former and current NBA players have done for the league; John Stockton, Dwayne Wade, Paul Pierce, Karl Malone, Bill Laimbeer! These are some of the most famous ballers in history, they are also some of the most famous floppers. There seems to be a pattern going on throughout the league where some of the most successful and highest paid players are also the best actors. These big name players in the league seem to have no problem exaggerating a little contact in order to get the advantage, after all it is not like they have anything else to rely on, like the skill and athleticism they have honed over the years in order to be called the best. They have the money after all to pay the flopping fines; Dwayne Wade makes a 20 million dollar salary right now, so that $5000 fine the Miami Heat star received back in June of 2014 in the Finals against San Antonio clearly took no skin off his nose. Lebron James and Chris Paul earn over a 22 million dollar salary, so a $30,000 flopping fine (the highest level fine a player can get, $5,000 being the lowest) would take away less than .15 percent of their income. Let’s face it, giving up a few thousand dollars and some fan respect is nothing compared to winning a game, it might have been dishonest and unsportsmanlike, but hey a win is a win.
Vlade Divac, one of the best known floppers and considered to be the pioneer of the practice, stated in an interview with Sports Illustrated. “I don’t call it flopping. I call it letting the ref know there is contact.” Divac did much for opening up the league towards international players (he was the first foreign-born and foreign-trained player to reach 1,000 games in the NBA), he also opened up the league to the flopping fiasco in the NBA today (being considered the “godfather” of flopping). Divac was the focal point for such Shakespearean artists like Manu Ginobili and Anderson Varejao to leave their mark on center stage. These players grew up in cultures where soccer reigned supreme, so naturally they would bring a few tricks of the trade with them to America. Embellishing a little contact cannot be all bad when you when can get a championship ring out of it, Ginobli himself has four to his name. But do not think for one second that flopping is an art form that just any rookie or bench-warmer can master, it takes cunning and planning, like Chris Bosh’s amazing Taser-hit fall after the phantom elbow karate chop by Carlos Boozer, and of course a master like Lebron has to give a wink and a smile to Derrick Rose for coming up short in Lebron’s favorite game, how-little-contact-will-the-ref-give-me. And above all else, flopping takes self-sacrifice and bravery; what other man would go so far as to slap himself in the face in order to get the attention from the referee as Mr. Lance Stephenson, very few let me tell you. But the main reason why flopping is so effective in the NBA, is because it can be a complete game changer.
A good, timely flop in the NBA can actually give your team a huge advantage and even manage to give them the victory. When there is only a few minutes or even seconds left on the playing clock, putting on a show for the referee through some exaggerated contact could get you two possible extra points from free throws, an offensive foul, a charge, as well as boost the game time momentum and morale of your team and audience. In December of 2013, the Dallas Mavericks faced the Golden State Warriors at the Oracle Arena. With 1:16 left in the fourth quarter, Stephen Curry drains a three pointer and falls to the ground after questionable contact made by Dallas’ Jose Calderon. A foul was called and it gave Curry a four point play that allowed the Warriors to be within one point of Mavericks, ultimately allowing the Warriors to win the game by two points.
Shane Battier is one of the best examples of an individual player who puts his body on the line in order to get fouls for his team. He was a pivotal figure in the Miami Heat’s two NBA Final victories in 2012 and 2013, not because he was blowing up the stat sheet, but because he was taking charges oh so well, and adding a little bit of those theater studies he must have learned at Duke University. It is certainly a sportsmanlike and ethical way of leading your team to victory am I right? How about no.
Satire aside, the practice of flopping in the NBA is cheap, dishonest, and the direct opposite of what sports and being an athlete is about. You’re supposed to take the hits, give the hits, and keep running, not crawl on the floor hoping the referee will soothe your nonexistent ache and dry your crocodile tears with a penalty on the opposing player. When did sports turn into a third grade classroom, with players tattling on others in order to get grace from the teacher? When did referees turn into babysitters tasked with appeasing players’ misguided misfortunes? And when did players resort to crying wolf for attention so as to give your team an advantage? Pride and good sportsmanship does not mean a thing in the NBA anymore because putting on a show of knocking yourself to the floor gets you a game time advantage, yeah that is completely ethical. What players think flopping is strategy, I think is double-dealing, or rather cheating; that is not what sports is and is not one of the values sports instills. I do not remember my fifth grade basketball coach insisting in me the value that “winning is everything” and should be completed by any means necessary. I guess the measure of a winner in the NBA these days is how good of an actor they are. But does Lebron really need to use the court to practice for the next Kia, Sprite, Nike, All State, Samsung, Beats, McDonalds, or whatever else commercial he plans to star in tomorrow? Before you know it we will see our first player being drafted from Juilliard in the near future.