NBA Board of Governors Wisely Votes to Expand Instant Replay for Flagrant Fouls

Gil Imber@RefereeOrganistAnalyst IIJuly 20, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 04:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant #24 argue with the referees against a foul during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on April 4, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The NBA Board of Governors, led by Commissioner David Stern, has judiciously approved a proposal to expand instant replay review to include the issue of flagrant foul assessment.

The board—which, in 2011, approved the modern tenths-of-a-second shot clock—voted to expand instant replay to include the most egregious of basketball offenses after several years of higher physicality and intensity have led to increased flagrant foul activity and, ultimately, more potential for injury.

Most notably, the Miami Heat's Udonis Haslem and Dexter Pittman were suspended for flagrant fouls during a tempestuous blowout against Indiana during Game 5 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals. Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough had also committed a flagrant foul after striking and lacerating Dwyane Wade's right forehead in the second quarter of the contest.

In January, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo suffered a right arm injury as a result of a Linas Kleiza flagrant foul.

Thursday's decision by the Board of Governors is a true no-brainer that bestows a victory upon all parties. NBA teams, players, referees and fans all stand to benefit greatly from this decision.

NBA Rule 12-B-IV outlines the criteria for a flagrant foul, further delineating the disproportionate act into the arenas of the Flagrant 1 and Flagrant 2.

Flagrant 1: "If contact committed against a player, with or without the ball, is interpreted to be unnecessary, a flagrant foul—penalty (1) will be assessed. A personal foul is charged to the offender and a team foul is charged to the team."

Flagrant 2: "If contact committed against a player, with or without the ball, is interpreted to be unnecessary and excessive, a flagrant foul—penalty (2) will be assessed. A personal foul is charged to the offender and a team foul is charged to the team."

To qualify as a Flagrant 1 or 2, contact must be deemed unnecessary: Officials may consider the severity of a player's wind-up (whether the player has anticipated the severe contact or otherwise premeditated the act), delivery (the actual connective act) and follow-through (further indication of whether the player's action was committed with malice).

In real time, the flagrant foul can be a mountain of a call: Though all plays at basketball's highest level are lightning-fast, the speed with which a player winds up, delivers and follows through with potentially devastating contact may be misconstrued, misinterpreted or plainly missed.

The sport is incredibly physical, and when injury may be caused by illegality, the stakes are all too high.

Basketball officials already employ instant replay and video analysis extensively in their development and continued education—a 48-minute game, with instant replay review, can take several hours to critique, analyze and evaluate.

Therefore, expanding instant replay to cover every single foul or out-of-bounds call is clearly not feasible and interrupts the flow that is so incredibly vital to all of the team-ball sports. As Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon mentioned in 2009, "No question, every time they go to the monitor it disrupts flow."

When a player commonly fouls an opponent, the penalty is a temporary stoppage of play while the foul is reported and the malfeasance is identified. It makes little sense to draw increased attention to this omnipresent aspect of the game via added instant replay review.

However, flagrant fouls are a different breed of on-court activity. Flagrant fouls themselves disrupt flow so atrociously that such a situation requires a near-complete stoppage of the game so as to properly and thoroughly discipline the offender, while compensating the victim.

When a player flagrantly fouls an opponent, the penalty must be adequately severe so as to both identify and shame the offender while clearly communicating to both teams and all fans that such behavior cannot and will not be tolerated.

Just as the nail-biter of a two- vs. three-pointer call in the waning seconds of a barn-burner deserves the drama of prolonged review and the axiom of "getting it right," so too does the flagrant foul call, whenever it may occur.

Flagrancy is not becoming to the sport of basketball—the high school basketball rules book defines a flagrant foul as one of a "savage nature," while one scholastic athlete who ran around doling out live-ball severities last December earned himself the deplorable title of "the dirtiest player in America."  

Simply put, unsporting acts require remedies whose tools may delay the game, though in the end, such measures are all performed in the name of saving the sport.


Gil Imber is Bleacher Report's Rules Featured Columnist and owner of Close Call Sports, a website dedicated to the objective and fair analysis of close or controversial calls in sports.