This article should not have to be written. While extremely unfortunate, it must be mentioned that COVID-19 is not the only rampant disease in the United States today. Unlike COVID-19, the disease discussed in this article is exclusively deadly towards the NBA’s goal of growing the sport. NBA players are flopping and begging for calls to the point where you would believe Oscar awards in acting have become the premiere criteria for entrance into the Basketball Hall of Fame. In short, the NBA has a flopping epidemic.
A flop is officially defined by the league as “any physical act that appears to have been intended to cause the referees to call a foul on another player.” This tactic has been around since the founding of the league but has become more pronounced in recent years due to stricter officiating as the league transitioned toward emphasizing perimeter-oriented play. The NBA attempted to remedy the situation by instituting a flopping rule first implemented during the 2012-13 regular season. The rule attempted to dissuade players from flopping via a system of fines that would increase substantially for repeat offenders. In the 2012-13 playoffs, the first violation would beget a $5,000 fine, the second would result in a $10,000 fine, $15,000 for a third and $30,000 for a fourth offense. A fifth infraction or more would result in even larger fines, potential suspensions and other consequences. However, financial disincentives have done little to nothing in dissuading players from fishing for calls and, let’s be honest, with over twenty players in NBA history having participated in movie acting roles, there has never been a lack of acting talent in the league. For NBA players that make millions of dollars from their contracts and endorsements, the repercussions of flopping are negligible. The lack of strict player-fearing regulation is compounded by the fact that flops have varying degrees and the minor ones can often be tough to identify. Veteran players have become adept in perfecting “the art” of flopping and it has since become ingrained into the culture of the game. Former NBA referee Ronnie Nunn says “Basketball is a crafty game. In terms of fooling the referee, flopping is part of its art and culture” and it has been prevalent in every era. He goes on to say he has witnessed flops in every facet of the game, from players executing them on offensive possessions, defensive switches and even securing rebounds in loose ball situations.
The problem is not that stars need to flop to be effective: it’s that there is no reason not to flop. With current league protocols, the benefits of flopping to turn the tide of a game far outweigh any measly fine to some of the most well-paid people on Earth. The league cannot seem to implement a proper deterrent. I think the players’ desire to maintain good reputations is the biggest tool the NBA can use to discourage players from flopping. Roasting segments like “Shaqtin’ A Fool” put players in the spotlight for flopping and other foolish plays in a non-malicious, joking manner. While the premise of the show is neither to insult nor show up players intentionally, NBA players leaguewide have acknowledged they do not want to be making regular appearances on the segment. Superstar Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry even thanked Shaq for not featuring him on the show by saying, “ I appreciate you looking out for me, man. I know I got a “Shaqtin’ A Fool”-worthy moment, but you said I was your favorite player in the league and I appreciate that support for not having me on it.” If flopping had more of an emphasis on “Shaqtin’ A Fool” or even its own show, it could become an additional source of revenue for the league and a way to adequately deal with the flopping problem.
While it’s hard to quantify the exact frequency of NBA flopping statistically, it is commonly accepted that flopping is an uncompetitive maneuver that is a detriment to both the quality of play and entertainment value. There is no place for flopping in NBA basketball.