Floppers. We love to hate them. Or we’re endlessly amused by them when they’re on our own teams, but we hate them when they’re the opposition.
Any fan who isn’t a Miami Heat supporter loves to call…well, anyone on the team the World’s Biggest Flopper. And before the Heat’s reign began, we all united around our complaints that Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol got any and every call.
But floppers inflict their misery on the sports world outside of the NBA, too. Just ask anyone who isn’t a Cristiano Ronaldo fan. And all of those wide receivers who demand flags on every ball that comes their way? They qualify as floppers, too.
At the risk of your own blood pressure, here’s a look at the biggest floppers in sports today.
He may be a little bit younger than some of the other notorious floppers on the list, but Joe Barea's impact has been no less significant.
In six-plus seasons with the Dallas Mavericks and the Minnesota Timberwolves, Barea has established himself as one of the most hated floppers around the league.
And what’s even more intriguing about Barea’s presence on the list is that he is one of the smallest players, if not the smallest, on it. When you think about the guys who are the best at selling a play, you’re usually thinking about the long, lean players who take a lot of charges (or so they have the referees convinced).
Barea, on the other hand, has perfected the art of making it look as though the rest of the league is intent on abusing him.
So props to him.
The hair. Maybe it’s just the hair.
Just as Anderson Varejao would probably love to claim that his luscious locks are the reason for his reputation as one of the league’s best actors, so would Sasha Vujacic, who once joined Kobe Bryant as one of the Los Angeles Lakers’ most notorious offenders.
There are few who have perfected the art of drawing the charge quite like Vujacic, whose expertise came in handy as he helped the Lakers achieve two NBA championships during his time with the team. While his offensive impact was pretty minimal—he averaged only 6.3 points and 1.3 assists during those two seasons—his impact while he was on the court was nevertheless significant because he could sell a charge.
Now Vujacic is well on his way to establishing himself as the biggest flopper in Turkey, where he has been playing since the beginning of the NBA lockout prior to the 2011-12 season.
Michael Crabtree has good hands, and we all know it.
Maybe he hasn’t quite realized his potential yet, but he’s getting there. And he doesn’t need to whine about getting more flags in order to do so.
The San Francisco 49ers wide receiver is, objectively speaking, one of the most gifted out there. The 2009 Top-10 draft pick has never registered more than 900 yards in a season—yet—but he has the hands to do it.
Just ask his head coach, who recently told Niners Nation’s David Fucillo:
He just, I don't know how else to describe it, it's like a frog, tongue squirts out and catches the ball. It was frog-like. Tongue-like, the way he uses his hands. Nobody I'd rather have catching the ball than him.
Yet still, he seems to want a flag every time a defensive back gets close to him near the end zone.
Then again, what wideout doesn’t?
Right up there with Kobe Bryant and Sasha Vujacic is one of the guys who was their partner in crime for a while, Pau Gasol.
And for a long time—particularly during the Los Angeles Lakers’ dominant stretch from 2008-10—Gasol was the poster boy for flopping. And it wasn’t even just because of the hair.
Like Cristiano Ronaldo, he has a Facebook group dedicated to his infuriating tendencies, which were put on full display during the Lakers’ NBA Finals series against the Celtics in 2008 and in 2010. Gasol is often the subject of acclaim for his toughness and his aggression, but some fans and opponents are slower to attribute his heroics to those, instead attributing them to a keen ability to act.
For one of the worst, check out his performance in Game 1 of the 2010 Finals against the Celtics (above): As he was going up against Kevin Garnett in the paint, KG bumped him ever so slightly; Gasol tossed up his arms, bobbled his head and went crashing to the floor.
But the refs saw through his antics that time and called the foul.
If only the officials were that smart every time.
At least Anquan Boldin has some success to his name: For a few of his years with Arizona, he was considered a crucial component of the Cardinals offense and one of the better wide receivers in the NFL.
But that doesn’t mean that he goes about his business on the field quietly.
Boldin, now a member of the Baltimore Ravens, is a wideout infamous for complaining that he never gets the calls he wants. It seems like every time he fails to make a catch, he’s quick to blame it on the refs and the fact that they didn’t call pass interference.
And should the officials dare to call offensive pass interference against Boldin—that’s how you really make him mad.
After the Ravens’ 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Boldin made no secret of his thoughts on the job done by the officiating crew. He told The Baltimore Sun’s Edward Lee:
They were making bad calls all night. I know they don’t want me to say it, but it’s what it was. You can’t allow a guy to hold and then when a receiver breaks free, call a pass interference. You can’t have it both ways. If you’re going to allow us to play football, let us play football. Guys want to hold, I know how to get a guy off of me. But you can’t just let the guy hold somebody and then complain about a guy throwing somebody off when he’s trying to get out on a route.
Interesting, how Boldin is so adamant that other players complain too much.
James Harden is one of the newest and most fury-inducing members of the elite floppers, and he’s carrying on his tradition in the house built by of some of the league’s most notorious actors: the Houston Rockets.
Maybe Harden needed to do some flopping to help the Oklahoma City Thunder keep up with the likes of the Los Angeles and Miami Heat in the 2011-12 playoffs and he never got out of the habit.
Maybe he was just doing what he had to do.
Or maybe he did a little bit too much, because now he’s invoking the ire of the league and the fans. Some of Harden’s crucial impact on last year’s Thunder team came from his ability to get to the line. And get to the line he did, shooting an average of 9.1 free throws per game last year.
During the Western Conference finals last year, the San Antonio Spurs were one of his biggest victims. There was no way they could avoid fouling him.
He was just that good at selling it. And now, someone else on the Thunder will have to pick up where he left off, since he has taken his talents to the Rockets.
Speaking of the Rockets, you would think that when you're surrounded by a couple of the best actors in the league, it might be easier to disguise your own tendencies to flop.
But not so for Kevin Martin.
The former Rocket may have faded into the background a bit behind the likes of Shane Battier and Luis Scola, but make no mistake: The league has recognized him for the flopper he is.
His impact on the court may not have been as significant as some of his more headline-worthy teammates, but he still has managed to establish himself as one of the best sellers in the league.
And given how well flopping worked out for the Miami Heat in last year's playoffs, perhaps Martin will bring some of that expertise to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the hopes that he can compensate for James Harden's absence as they reboot for another championship run this year.
We can all appreciate the fact that Randy Moss, in his prime, was one of the best receivers in the NFL.
But just because you’re a walking matchup problem at 6’4” doesn’t mean you deserve a flag every time you go for a catch. And Moss didn’t need any help, as it stood.
He had six consecutive seasons in which he compiled 1,200 yards or more, and during a record-setting 2007 season with the New England Patriots, he registered 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Yet Moss still wanted more.
Calls, that is. He has long been criticized for pushing off on his catches, and even when he has drawn calls for contact, he has still gotten criticized—even by his Vikings head coach in Minnesota in 2010.
Moss couldn’t win. He was getting a bad rap for drawing flags, and he came down on refs for failing to throw them.
But now, given the limits of his role with the San Francisco 49ers, he’s not getting a chance to do much of anything because he’s never on the field.
All diving aside, Luis Suarez never has any trouble making headlines.
The Liverpool star, who makes headlines if he dives fewer than two or three times per game, was banned for eight matches almost a year ago and suffered a £40,000 fine for making racist comments toward Patrice Evra during a game against Manchester United.
But even aside from offenses like that, he still does plenty to invoke the fury of the masses with his diving.
And those masses extend outside of the fans and into the Premier League—specifically to Swansea’s Ashley Williams, who didn’t pull any punches when he wrote in his book My Premier League Diary (via the Daily Mail):
Suarez has that aura about him that says, ‘I'm untouchable’, and his manner and behaviour made me want to knock him out. The manner in which he approached the game, with utter contempt for us all, means that he's streets ahead of any player I've truly disliked since we've been in the Premier League.
You know your diving is pretty egregious when it essentially gets its own chapter in an opponent’s book.
Among those wide receivers who constantly whine that they’re not getting flags is the Dallas Cowboys’ Dez Bryant.
Perhaps it would be different if Bryant were a superstar who gave it 110 percent every time he stepped on the field and still felt slighted by the refs.
But that’s not the case. Far from it.
In fact, Bryant is notoriously regarded as one of the most underachieving players in the league and can’t escape the kinds of off-the-field scandals that have inhibited his ability to be a superstar on it.
And to top it all off, Bryant tries to mask his sub-par career numbers—2,467 yards and 23 touchdowns in 26 starts over three years—with incessant complaining that his opponents don’t get enough get pass interference calls.
Most recently, he sounded off on the alleged no-call on a two-point conversion attempt in the waning minutes of a loss to the Baltimore Ravens in October. He told the Dallas News’ Scott Bell:
I felt like it was a P.I. My opinion. Not saying I couldn’t catch it, because I feel like I can make difficult catches. But I feel like he put his arm around me. I haven’t seen the play yet. But it wasn’t called.
Honestly, the Cowboys have enough problems. They could do without his whining.
The Miami Heat didn’t get their reputation as the biggest flopping team in the NBA purely because of LeBron. He had some help.
In fact, some think Dwyane Wade is an even bigger flopper than his superstar teammate.
CBSSports.com’s Gregg Doyel has some not-so-kind words for Wade, who he thinks is infecting Kevin Durant with the necessity to flop. Doyel claims that Durant was compelled to flop—something that is normally far beneath him, apparently—during last year’s NBA Finals because it was the only way to contend with the Heat—and Wade, in particular.
Of Wade, Doyel writes:
Dwyane Wade is the worst flopper I've seen this side of a South American soccer match. Watch him rise for a contested shot. If the defender reaches for the ball, Wade parachutes on the shot--doesn't even try to make it--and instead throws out both arms and both legs, as if he's Mr. Potato Head and he's falling to pieces. It's hilarious until the whistle blows, and then it's pathetic. But somehow Wade goes to the foul line with his head held high, as if he's earned it.
And that really is the heart of the problem: When players like Wade and LeBron rely on flopping to keep the playing field uneven, everyone else is forced to do the same.
And then the NBA becomes a joke.
For a long time, prior to the beginning of LeBron's reign, Anderson Varejao was widely regarded as the league's biggest flopper.
And what do you know? While they were both members of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Varejao had the opportunity to learn from the master himself.
Like LeBron, Varejao is excellent at selling calls. Maybe the hair helps.
The flopping hair, combined with the flailing limbs, makes even the slightest of touches look like technical foul-worthy affronts. But now that the Cavs are anything but intimidating, nobody really cares anymore that Varejao is, or was, the league's biggest flopper.
Now that the Heat are the team to beat, they're much more fixated on his former comrade.
Shane Battier likes to talk a big game about how "egregious" the flopping epidemic has become in the NBA, but what he fails to recognize is that he is one of the biggest reasons the problem persists.
Battier claims that flopping is all in the hair, but that doesn't seem to stop him. Maybe it's because he's tall and long and lean, but when he is so much as bumped by another player—no matter that player's size or strength—he launches himself, whether it's at the floor, the fans or his teammates. He can sell just as well as anybody else.
And yet, he's a proponent of anti-flopping rules!
He told ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh:
As long as they have the same penalty against offensive floppers—guys who drive through the lane and throw back their head and flail and cry—then I’d have no problem with it on the defensive end.
Interesting. Seems like he just described himself.
Guess it takes one to know one.
Shouldn’t you get fined for being a flopper, not for calling someone a flopper?
Hedo Turkoglu has long been considered one of the NBA’s most egregious sellers during his time with the Sacramento Kings, the Orlando Magic, the Toronto Raptors and the Phoenix Suns, and everyone knew it.
Why, then, did Rasheed Wallace get fined for pointing out the obvious? Isn't that kind of like calling Lindsay Lohan a train wreck?
Well, because he criticized the officials, too, but Sheed had a point: Flopping ruins the game of basketball, and it’s time we all recognized it.
Back in November 2009, Wallace—then a Boston Celtic—was whistled for two technical fouls in a game against Toronto and unleashed afterward by trashing the refs and calling Turkoglu a flopper. He told ESPNBoston.com’s Chris Forsberg:
They've got to know that he's a damn flopper. That's all Turkododo do. Flopping shouldn't get you nowhere. He acts like I shot him. That's not basketball, man. That's not defense. That's garbage, what it is. I'm glad I don't have too much of it left.
Maybe Wallace laid it on a little thick, but he was right—flopping is garbage.
The nickname Turkododo, however, is not.
Luis Scola, though not quite up there with the LeBrons and the Ginobilis of the world, is certainly one of the league's most notorious floppers. And as fellow flopper Shane Battier told ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh, sometimes it's all about the hair.
Scola has perfected the art of selling the foul, hard or soft. And some of it comes down to more than arms and legs flying everywhere. Some of it just comes down to the hair.
When Battier and Scola were both members of the Houston Rockets, they had to be considered one of the most Oscar-worthy flopping teams in the NBA. And now that two of the league's biggest perpetrators are apart, Battier is pulling on punches in stating the facts for the rest of the world. He told Haberstroh:
The more hair you have, the better. My boy Luis Scola, he’s got that long hair and when it gets sweaty and he starts flopping and flailing, it looks like he’s getting murdered out there.
It may be all about the hair for Scola.
But what's Battier's excuse?
As a Boston Celtics fan, I can say conclusively that Paul Pierce is one of the biggest floppers out there. And it never ceases to be entertaining to experience the many variations of his “Where’s the call?” face.
Like Kobe Bryant, Pierce may be unceasingly adamant that he is, in fact, not a flopper. But we all know he loves to sell a play, and sometimes, he’s really good at it.
He has long been a presence in the league-issued “Biggest Flopper” polls, and there is perhaps nobody else who has as big a flair for the dramatic as Pierce.
Look no further than the 2008 NBA Finals for evidence. Any Lakers fan will point you in that direction with pleasure, for that was when Pierce, in Game 1 of the Finals against LA, left the action in a wheelchair—a wheelchair!—only to return to action and destroy the Lakers for the rest of the finals and bring Banner No. 17 to Boston.
Some have claimed that Pierce was seriously injured in that Game 1 play, but come on.
If you need to leave the court in a wheelchair, and then return to it in that same wheelchair, you probably shouldn’t be in the game.
And I say that with pure love in my heart.
While Anderson Varejao was regarded by his peers and by the media as the league's biggest flopper for a long, long time, Manu Ginobili wasn't too far behind him.
Maybe it really does have something to do with hating on the players who are on top of the world—because while the San Antonio Spurs were one of the NBA's most dominant teams, none of us could shut up about how many calls Ginobili received. But now that the Spurs have faded a bit and their throne has been usurped by the Miami Heat, Ginobili has faded into the background a bit as LeBron has stepped into the forefront.
Last March, to the surprise of no one, Ginobili was named to ESPN.com's All-Flop first team, where he was surrounded by some of the league's other esteemed actors.
Writer Beckley Mason described his best flop move as a "whiplash-inducing head thrash."
In Kobe Bryant, we have one of the league’s most notorious and infamous actors. Kobe was the guy everyone loved to complain about before they turned their ire on LeBron, and he’s had 16-plus years to inflict his flopping on the Western Conference.
Kobe, however, steadfastly refuses to admit to his offenses. He’s more than willing to point the finger at Derek Fisher, his former comrade, but as for him? No way.
He doesn’t take charges. Never ever. He doesn’t flop on offense, either.
During last year’s Western Conference semifinals series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kobe told ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin that one of the reasons he has been able to last so long in the league is precisely because he avoids taking charges:
I learned from my predecessors. [Scottie] Pippen had a [messed] up back taking charges. [Larry] Bird had a [messed] up back taking charges. I said, 'I'm not taking charges.' I figured that...out at an early age.
As for flopping offensively, though—that’s another story.
Check out the video above for evidence.
Diving is an even bigger issue in the world of football than it is in the NBA. It is even more infamous for infuriating the fans.
And there is no one who is more synonymous with diving than Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo, kind of like LeBron, may be one of the most revered players in the international football spectrum, but he’s also one of the most disliked because of his diving tendencies. You will be hard-pressed to find a ranking of soccer’s most notorious floppers where Ronaldo is not at or near the top.
There is even a Facebook group dedicated to his offenses. As the Huffington Post’s Alan Black writes, he is perhaps better known for his flopping as he is for his heroics:
With pout and glower on his immaculate face, he converts dives into penalties, and free kicks, from whence he scores. Millions follow and worship him.
Maybe, like in the NBA, you have to be proficient at diving to be one of the best.
Or maybe, like in the NBA, tactics like Ronaldo’s are an indelible mark of shame on the sport.
There are just too many good flops to choose from when it comes to LeBron James.
Literally, you could spend hours just combing through the YouTube footage to get a good laugh. Or to give yourself heart palpitations.
We all know that LeBron gets calls. He knows how to work the system and play the game.
If you brush the top of his head with your hand, he will go crashing to the ground and will writhe in pain. If he’s stuck on the sideline trying to make a pass and your fingertips barely graze the ball in his hands, he will be catapulted back five rows into the stands.
And the refs will call it every time because he’s LeBron and he will always get those calls.
After one particularly terrible flop during the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Pacers, even Indiana head coach Frank Vogel told us what we already know, via USA Today: The Heat are the NBA's biggest collection of floppers.
And hey, it worked out for them last year, so maybe they're onto something.