At some point, everyone in the NBA has exaggerated contact in hopes of drawing a foul against his opponent, LeBron James included. But is the world's greatest player a recreational flop-artist, or is he a habitual abuser?
You don't have to ask the Chicago Bulls or their fans what they believe to be true; they've already told us.
Early in the second quarter of the Miami Heat's Game 3 victory over Chicago, LeBron was called for a technical foul after sending Nazr Mohammed to the ground. LeBron didn't agree with the call (does anyone ever?) and while he was smack-dab in the middle of his facial skepticism, Mohammed got up and shoved him to the floor.
Or did he just shove him?
After the game, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau seemed to believe that LeBron hit the hardwood by choice.
"From my angle, I just saw a guy flop," he admitted (via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports).
And he wasn't alone. Nate Robinson thought that LeBron deserved an Emmy for his acting job.
"You see LeBron in a lot of commercials, a lot of good acting," he said.
Adrian Wojnarowski @WojVerticalNBA
Nate Robinson on LeBron James' crashing to the floor on Nazr Mohammed push: "You see LeBron in a lot of commercials, a lot of good acting."5/11/2013, 3:36:23 AM
And here Magic Johnson had us thinking that LeBron wasn't in enough commercials...
To LeBron's credit, he didn't appear to be expecting Mohammed to retaliate; he seemed genuinely shocked that he was pushed. It wasn't as if Mohammed resigned to giving him a slight love tap either. He put all 250 pounds of himself behind it.
But LeBron comes in at 250 pounds, right? The way he's built, he doesn't go down in that situation unless he wants to, correct?
Maybe, maybe not. This particular instance is up for debate, unless you ask LeBron himself.
Though Robinson, Thibs and likely more than half of Chicago would argue the contrary, LeBron scoffs at the notion of him as a flopper.
"I don't need to flop," LeBron explained (via NBA.com). "I play an aggressive game. I don't flop. I've never been one of those guys."
We'll be the judge of that, King James.
Erik Spoelstra won't be, though. He won't come out and admit that LeBron flops. But he's not about to let Thibs take shots at his players either.
"I don't care," Spoelstra said when asked about Thibs' comments (via Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel). "I don't spend a lot time thinking about what Tom is saying. I don't."
While Coach Spo isn't paying attention to what Thibs said, we are. We're taking in what LeBron himself says as well. And we're watching closely, wondering if The Chosen One has chosen to flop more than he'd ever concede to.
This isn't some unfounded crusade, either. Our interest (distrust?) in LeBron's on-court tactics are the direct result of the league's flop-laden culture. NBA players are not above of embellished deception. Far too many of the Association's employees are known for their flopping.
Flopping happens; it just does. Some are just more keen on ill-advised flailing than others. And LeBron could be one of them.
His intentions in Chicago—innocent or devious—are difficult to divine, but this isn't his first run-in with alleged flopping.
In a November 24 bout against the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron hit the floor after absorbing questionable contact from rookie Dion Waiters.
As you can see, there was some contact, but it was minimal. LeBron is sent flying anyway, even though he has at least 25 pounds on Waiters.
Would that constitute a flop or not?
The King could also be found engaging in some questionable activities on January 17 against the Los Angeles Lakers. He got "tangled" up with Dwight Howard and was naturally almost sent sailing into the stands.
We know that Howard is powerful and enormous, but he doesn't weigh much more than LeBron. He doesn't appear to use any excessive force here, yet LeBron is seen barreling his way out of bounds like a runaway train.
Flop or not?
Looking back, Lamar Odom would say flop. He himself was whistled for potentially nonexistent contact against LeBron later on in a February 9 contest.
LeBron does bump into Odom slightly, but he appears to oversell it, and good ol' Lamar is whistled for the foul.
Flop or not?
Moving right along, we see LeBron either up to his old tricks or being victimized against the Indiana Pacers on March 10.
At first glance, it appeared Lance Stephenson's elbow connected with his jaw, but when slowed down it seems that LeBron was hit by an invisible elbow or caught off guard by the brush of air Stephenson's up-swing created.
Flop or not?
That's the question we keep asking ourselves after the Game 3 debacle with Mohammed. And it's one we have yet to definitively answer.
Some of what LeBron has done in the past can be construed as flopping, but even if he is someone who must be considered a notorious flopper, did he flop against the Bulls?
Matt Moore of CBS Sports did a magnificent breakdown of what transpired in Game 3, and in it, you're able to get a close-up look at the purported "flop."
If that's not enough, he provides some freeze-frame action for us to consider as well.
So what say you, was this a flop or not? And is LeBron a flopper or just misperceived?
"I know what we don't condone and what we don't talk about," LeBron said (via Winderman). "The only thing that we can control is how we play, how we prepare and how we go out there and do the things that we need to do to win."
The jury is still out on whether one of the "things" LeBron needs to do to win is flop his heart out.
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