Opinion: Flopping Isn't Bad, It's a Part of the Game

Thomas DuffyFeatured ColumnistMay 28, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 04:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks on from the floor during the first half of the Heat's 105-101 loss to the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on December 4, 2012 in Washington, DC. 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 Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

To start, let’s talk about what flopping actually is, since it’s become one of the hottest topics around the NBA. Basically, it’s when a player exaggerates contact in order to draw a whistle. It’s been going on since the beginning of the sport—Michael Jordan did it, Magic Johnson did it, and now today’s stars are doing it.

Prior to the 2013 season, the league agreed to an anti-flopping rule that would fine the worst offenders, which eventually wound up affecting 14 players for 24 different violations.

Before the start of the 2013 postseason, a similar rule was put in place. Players would be fined $5,000 for the first offense, $10,000 for the second, $15,000 for the third and $30,000 on their fourth violation. So far Tony Allen, J.R. Smith, Jeff Pendergraph and Derek Fisher have drawn penalties for their dramatic behavior.

When LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, two of the most notorious floppers in the league, were asked about how effective the policy was this season, their reply was pretty forthright.

"It's year one, so you're not just going to go cold turkey," James told Ken Berger of CBS Sports. "Guys have been accustomed to doing it for years, and it's not even a bad thing. You're just trying to get the advantage. Any way you can get the advantage over an opponent to help your team win, then so be it."

Keep in mind, that’s coming from a player who has refuted claims that he was a flopper over and over again. "I don't need to flop," James said (via NBA.com). "I play an aggressive game. I don't flop. I've never been one of those guys."

Wade added: "It happens. But we would have no NBA possibly if they got rid of all the flopping." Interpret that the best you can.

The King’s response condoning flopping has drawn a lot of criticism and sparked a lot of outrage, but I actually agree with LBJ—it’s not a bad thing. Flopping is a skill, anyone can do it and it’s very hard for a referee to determine a legitimate reaction to contact from an egregious flop. However, officials are getting better at it (see the D-Wade video), and they will need to in order to tone down the amount of theatrics that go on in-game.

I do think that flops become a problem when Wade and James are the only ones getting away with it, though. That’s not gamesmanship, it's favoritism.

But why do fans feel such disdain seeing the league’s most polarizing players throwing themselves to the floor at even the slightest touch? I understand that viewpoint—I used to be one of those people myself. I used to think that flopping was one of the most ridiculous things to happen to the NBA, but during the 2013 playoffs I had an epiphany.

James said, "any way you can get an advantage over the opponent to help your team win, so be it,” and I absolutely love that attitude. Watching the Miami Heat go toe-to-toe with the Indiana Pacers in Games 1 and 2 (not so much in Game 3), the intensity was great and the competitiveness was unparalleled.

Every player on both sides desperately wanted to win, and you know what? If flopping is what they have to do to give their team the best chance, then (as James says) so be it. The fact that the league’s best players have this hunger for victory that propels them to do whatever they can to help their team is a beautiful thing. It also disproves the common belief that they are indifferent to the outcome and that they only want paychecks. These guys are getting after it every single night, looking for even the slightest advantage over their opponent.

Do I condone cheating? No, nor do I condone any kind of dirty play whatsoever. But it’s not a controversy when Carmelo Anthony hooks his arm around his defender and blows by him, and it’s not a big deal when Kobe Bryant kicks his leg out on his jumpshots to distance himself from opponents. Both of those plays are, by the book, offensive fouls and these superstars have been whistled for it before. However, if James or Wade exaggerates a call, then there is widespread outrage. Why?

When Allen was fouled by Manu Ginobili (a fellow master of the flop) with his team down by four with 26 seconds left in Game 2, the normally hard-as-nails point guard sold the contact enough to the point that the officials called the play a flagrant 1. That call gave the Memphis Grizzlies two shots and the ball, and thus allowed them to push the game into overtime. Would the Grizzlies have gotten to OT without Allen's dramatic response? Probably not, and I'm sure he would do the same exact thing over again if given the chance. That play alone proves why flopping isn't a bad part of the game.

Referees need to improve their ability to determine whether a play was a flop or a foul, which could even restore some of the league's toughness as a lesser number of weak fouls would be whistled. Until then, James, Wade and every other superstar in the NBA is going to continue to do everything they can to help their team win, because in the end that’s all that matters—winning.

For the foreseeable future, flopping is going to continue to be a part of the NBA game. And I’m all for it.