Why All Great NBA Players Must Learn How to Flop

Kaitlin MurphyContributor IIIDecember 13, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 04:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers drives into Elton Brand #42 of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on December 4, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  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 Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Like it or not, flopping has become part of the NBA game, and great players who utilize flopping in the right way at the right time better his team's chances of winning.

Whether or not a foul occurs, a referee's call can change a game.  While new instant replay rules have made it easier for referees to make the right call or at least review and change their wrong call, seldom will referees change a foul call.

Here is a list of the most recent instant replay changes effective this season as reported by Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:


  • When reviewing a block/charge play to determine whether the defender was inside or outside the restricted area, officials will now be permitted to reverse a charge call, or uphold a blocking call, when the defender was outside the restricted area but was not set when the offensive player began his upward shooting motion.
  • To determine whether an off-ball foul occurred before or after a player has started his shooting motion on a successful shot attempt, or before or after the ball was released on a throw-in.
  • During the review of any instant replay situation to permit the officials to assess the appropriate penalties of any unsportsmanlike and unnecessary acts (e.g. flagrant fouls) that are observed during the instant replay reviews.


NBA Commissioner David Stern has also attempted to cut down on flopping through the anti-flopping initiative, which allows the NBA to hand out fines to players for flopping.

Chris Bosh was fined $5,000 for his flop in Game 4 of the NBA Finals last season.
Chris Bosh was fined $5,000 for his flop in Game 4 of the NBA Finals last season.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The most a player can be fined under these terms is $30,000, which is after the player's fifth flopping violation.  While that may seem like a hefty sum for throwing yourself on the ground to most people, to these multimillionaire players, it's nothing.

Let's take LeBron James for example.  This season, LeBron James' salary is $19,067,500, good for ninth in the league.  To James, $30,000 is .157 percent of his income.  To an average American household with a $52,100 salary (the median annual salary in America via the The New York Times) that's the equivalent of $81.80, less than most speeding tickets.  All math aside, this isn't enough to defer players from a little acting, especially if that means helping their team win.

I think most NBA players would be more than willing to pay their equivalent of 81 bucks to secure a W.

Let's face it, unless referees are allowed and willing to review and if necessary reverse every single call, there will undoubtedly be some undeserving fouls due to some award-winning flopping.

So flopping exists, but can a flop really make a difference in the game?  


Let's take one of the most recent examples of flopping.  

The Dallas Mavericks faced the injury-plagued Golden State Warriors in Oakland Wednesday night.  The game went down to the wire, ending in a Stephen Curry game winner.  This wasn't where the flopping occurred though.

With 1:16 left in the fourth quarter, Curry nailed a three-pointer and fell to the ground, drawing a foul as seen in the video below.  This foul led to a four-point play that brought the Warriors within one point of the Mavericks with just over a minute remaining.  


After watching that video, it doesn't look like Dallas's Jose Calderon touched Curry on the shot.  He may have made it awkward for Curry to land, but it's still questionable if there was contact.  And even if there was contact, it doesn't seem like enough to make Curry fall and roll on to his back with his legs off the ground. 

That's what we call selling it.  

If you don't think that flop changed the game and helped GSW come away with the win, you're crazy.  Not only is it demoralizing to the Mavericks, but after Curry makes that shot, the whole place, besides the Mavericks' bench, lights up. 

Former Warrior Monta Ellis knows all too well how the crowd in Oracle Arena can affect the opposing team.  After Wednesday's game, Ellis told reporters, "When they made shots and the crowd got into it, this is kind of a hostile environment," per the Associated Press.

Oracle Arena was especially hostile after witnessing their home team punctuate a comeback with a Curry four-point play.

Curry's play is more an exaggeration than a true flop, and this was a game at the beginning of the regular season, so let's take a look at a more severe and more "important" flop as far as relevance of the game goes.

In last season's Western Conference Finals, the San Antonio Spurs took on the Memphis Grizzlies.  The Spurs took the first game and looked to advance to 2-0 in the series with a win at home in Game 2. 

With just over 26 seconds left in the game and the Spurs up 85-81, Memphis' Tony Allen goes up for a fast-break layup and is obviously fouled by San Antonio's Manu Ginobili, as seen in the video below. 

Here's the thing, Allen rolls around on the floor, holding his head in agony, writhing in pain.  But as slow motion replay reveals, Allen's head never hit the floor on his fall.  Allen's acting performance, however, ensured Ginobili's foul was called as a flagrant.  This meant Tony Allen got two free throws and the Grizzlies retained possession.  

Potentially, a five-point swing, which is exactly how many points the Grizzlies needed to gain the lead with 26.1 seconds remaining on the clock.  

Ultimately the Spurs were able to pull out the win, but Allen did just about everything he could to give the Grizzlies a chance to steal a win on the road in the Western Conference Finals.

Allen did get fined $5,000 though.  But so what?

Had they won the game thanks to the flagrant foul, he would be $5,000 poorer, but one win closer to the NBA Finals.

David Stern may not think there is a place in the NBA for flopping, but inevitably it will happen.  Fining millionaire players chump change won't get rid of it, and upping the sum of money to a significant amount seems a little ridiculous.  Even if the referees were allowed and willing to review and possibly overturn every single foul call, the game would be so slow and tedious, no one would want to watch it.  So, Stern is forced to continue fining insignificant amounts of money, but allowing players to act a little.

Great players know how to use this to their advantage.

This isn't to say that Tony Allen is a "great" player as the title to this article implies, but if players like LeBron James (who is no stranger to the flop) or Chris Paul (who loves a good flop, see the video to the right) who already have a large influence over an outcome of a game can utilize the flop in crucial moments of close games, they can come out on top.

Like Stephen Curry punctuating the momentum his team had built with a four-point play, leading to a Warriors win.

Great players know the game inside and out, and whether we like it or not, flopping is a part of the game.  Players who know how to use a little bit of acting at the right moment can get a win in a close game, and isn't that what we always judge great players on?  Their "clutch gene."  Their ability to win not only in close games, but just in general.

Great players will do whatever it takes to win, including flopping.

Hey, if you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin.