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.