It’s the question that never gets answered and never goes away — Why is flopping tolerated in the NBA when it’s almost universally reviled by fans? Obviously, we all hate it when a player does it against our team and he gets a call from it, but I’d like to think that most of us feel at least a touch of shame when one of our own players flops. Is that really how you want the game to be played?

The biggest obstacle to identifying and punishing flops is that they’re usually subjective. How do we really know what’s a flop and what isn’t? In the video at the top of this post, Jeff Van Gundy goes off on a rant on how he believes the NBA condones flopping and how he thinks it would easy to eliminate it from the league. He yells, “I have easy remedies. You fine ‘em, or you treat ‘em like technicals — when you flop ‘X’ amount of times, you’re suspended.”

When broadcast partner Mike Breen points out that it’s hard to tell what’s a flop and what isn’t, Van Gundy responds, “That’s not hard! Technicals are subjective, too!” And he makes a solid point here. Many calls that basketball officials have to make are subjective. Was that a charge or a blocking foul? Did he get all ball or did he hit the arm on that blocking attempt? Could it be the NBA officials don’t want to be burdened with yet another type of subjective decision to make on the court?

In FIBA rules, officials have the ability to call a technical foul on an obvious flop. I think NBA officials should be given this authority and strongly encouraged by the league to use it accordingly. If the officials miss a blatant, indisputable flop, teams should have the ability to send the footage to the league office so that the league can decide whether or not to charge the player with a tech, after the fact. Since NBA players are automatically hit with a one-game suspension after they accumulate 16 technical fouls over the course of a regular season, this rule change could act as a deterrent, although it certainly won’t eliminate flopping altogether, no matter what Jeff Van Gundy believes.

The NBA has given the appearance of attempting to address this issue in the past. After meeting with the league’s competition committee in May 2008, Vice President of Basketball Operations Stu Jackson told ESPN’s Marc Stein, “What was clearly expressed to the committee is that we would begin imposing fines next season for the most egregious type of flops. When players are taking a dive, for lack of a better term.”

This led some to speculate that, you know, the league would actually start fining floppers. As you’ve surely noticed, this never happened. When Tom Ziller pointed this out in December 2008, a league spokesman contacted Ziller to tell him that “The league is monitoring the trend but has told media it will not fine players this year.”

So what gives? If FIBA was able to find a way to address this problem, why can’t the NBA do the same? I’m not as outraged about this issue as Van Gundy is, but I am extremely confused. I mean, say what you will about David Stern, but we can all agree that he’s a pretty smart guy and this isn’t a complicated issue. Calling techs on flops would be a nice PR win for the league office at a time when they could surely use it. And there’s no doubt in my mind that instituting this rule would result in a better product on the floor.

Comments (20)

  1. Can we include flopping on the offensive end too? I will never get over how Dwayne Wade could trip over his own feet repeatedly in the 2006 finals and get a call against the nearest player. I think guys who do that hurt the integrity of the game more than a defensive flopper. Giving them a tech after the game based on video footage is fine.

    • Thank god, someone else who is just as concerned about this! It is annoying to see defensive players fall over like they’ve been shot, yes, but it pains me to see guys like Kevin Martin and similar players who make a living by flopping their way to the free throw line 12 times a game.

  2. It’s not so much the tolerance of flopping, but the rewarding of it (e.g., too many charge calls, unnecessarily falling down a la Dwyane Wade).

  3. The toughest part is not in discouraging flops with punishments, but the fact that judging what is and isn’t a flop in the normal flow of the game is next to impossible.

    While the actions suggested by Van Gundy and Scott here would help, you’ll still see flopping, especially in critical moments where the player could deem it “worth it”, especially if they’re the type of player that doesn’t get techs anyways.

    Consider a critical possession in a Finals game; a flop is most certainly worth any penalty assuming said penalty isn’t enforced at the time of the infraction.

    • I think it’s a given that we can’t eliminate flopping entirely, but if habitual floppers start to pile up techs, I would figure that they would at least try to cut back on that behavior.

  4. Wait, one moment, could we just examine what was there first? The obvious flop (as in “exaggerated fall to the ground”) or the ridiculous chest bump that probably was intended to look like a screen by Shumpert? Because I am not sure yet whether I want to see any kind of football on basketball courts (American or Association).

    • oh come on. that was hardly football in nature. it’s a lazy screen (could be misconstrued as a moving screen) yes but still just a screen. bumping is allowed down in the post so what’s the difference?

  5. I think it’s a great idea, respect to JVG for calling out the league.

  6. like every other call an official makes, you know flopping simply would not be called on superstar players or those who play in big markets. seriously, Nowitski flops practically every other play; how many times do you think the league would actually let its officials call him on it? by the way, that was a rhetorical question.

  7. Call less fouls, then it won’t be advantageous to flop.

  8. im from the UK where obviously soccer is the #1 sport. every weerkend i hear my friends talking about player diving and getting away with it. i always felt better that a plus of liking basketball over football because there wasn’t any diving. its just now becoming more embarrassing to watch nba games nowadays and seeing players do it.
    i thought the nba was for strong honorable athletes………

  9. I’d love to see flopping/diving penalized in the NBA, both on offense and defense.

    I’d hate to see basketball become like professional soccer where diving is almost a legitimate part of the game. Yes players are occasionally penalized for diving, but I always feel in soccer that the subjective part of the decision is whether the referee thinks it was a good dive or a bad dive.

    The referees in soccer know players dive, they just choose to award or discipline players based on the performance of their dive. I feel some of this sort of thing is creeping into the NBA.

    It will be great when sport is refereed by robots who can only understand 0′s and 1′s and there would be no such thing as a “grey area”! (kinda kidding)

  10. I hate it when the team I root for does it. I would scream at the TV when Derek Fisher did it, and I like Derek Fisher. I HATE flopping. ARGH!

    TK should have a Chill Out Juwan for this video. Just sit down Juwan. You are not a ref!

  11. I’d love to see it gone, but I suspect that enforcing it would slow down the game some…probably the opposite of what the NBA wants.

  12. I think that they put this off because for the moment there are many superstar players that do this. If the league started fining CP3, Wade, Blake and the likes I don’t think it would be so good for the PR of the NBA.

  13. I think judging whether a player legitimately flopped or was actually trying to take a charge can only be determined after the game on video replay. Yeah, we could allow referees to give techs for flopping, but it is just so hard to tell sometimes. I think with multiple camera angles and replay you can tell almost 100% of the time, so give a tech with a heavy fine after the game.

    Obviously, this wouldn’t really deter flopping in the playoffs if you only gave the techs after the game was played. Something should be done about it. I hate watching football and seeing players flop and take dives with the slightest of contact. Actually, the referees are way worse in football (soccer) than the ones we have in basketball. We should be grateful.

  14. This is somewhat of a digression, but does anyone else hope for the day when human referees will be replaced by smart A.I. “arbiters”? Yeah, you can call them robots or computers or HAL 9000, but I what I mean is a system designed using multiple cameras, sensors in the floors, and a programmed system that would make calls on tricky violations like flopping, travelling, double-dribbles, too many steps, goal tending, charge/block, foot on the line or not?, etc.

    Obviously, if a fight broke out among multiple players or to determine a flagrant vs. regular foul or the many other “subjective” calls we would still need human referees. So we wouldn’t completely do away with them, but we would use the A.I. “Arbiters” as I call them to determine everything else on the basketball court. Honestly, this system would be better for baseball than basketball. I would love to have a system like this in place so we wouldn’t have to complain about the state of officiating in professional basketball…

  15. Why is floping allowed and why doesn’t refee’s call fouls at both ends of the court? Then the game would be fair!

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