Siddarth Sharma - sidbreakball

In defense of flopping and diving

Published on
June 6, 2016

Wikipedia defines flopping in basketball as “the art of a defensive player intentionally falling after little or no physical contact with an offensive player in order to draw a charging foul by an official against the offensive player.”

I like that they call it art. Not a cheap move, an art. One thing missed in the definition is that a basketball player can flop on the offensive end too. Drive in and jerk back as if shot in the head. In football, diving happens more on the offensive end by the flopper. The question is, is flopping justified?

NBA 2K13 is very realistic. A little too realistic. It has actually introduced a button for flopping! “The flop button adds a different dimension to the game’s realism.” A head-puzzling one to me. When a video game acknowledges something like flopping and diving, something’s got to give. What do some of the players have to say about flopping?

“All that bull[expletive]-ass calls they had out there. With Mike [Callahan] and Kenny [Mauer] — you’ve all seen that [expletive]. You saw them calls. The cats are flopping all over the floor and they’re calling that [expletive]. That [expletive] ain’t basketball out there. It’s all [expletive] entertainment. You all should know that [expletive]. It’s all [expletive] entertainment.”- said an eloquent Rasheed Wallace, back in the day.

Same action, different forms. A gleeful dive with grace and poise. Or a ragdoll one with limbs flailing, head snapped back as if shot by a sniper. In football, it’s more commonly known as a dive. In basketball we call it flopping. In principle both are the same. Faking a hit and succumbing to the ground to get a whistle in your favour. It’s seen as underhand, sneaky and unsportsmanlike.

What really puzzles me, don’t the players realize that in this day and age of digital cameras we can review every action they take on the field and rehash them over and over later? You flop and dive and the next day you trend on twitter as a diver. You get on Youtube with people mocking your cheap theatrics. LeBron’s wink after a flop is immortalized in the pic above.

Some players go the extra mile to sell their flops. Manu Ginobili could star in a L’oreal commercial. Louis Scola could join him too. Both are Argentine players who are renowned floppers. Shane Battier has said: “The more hair you have, the better. My boy Luis Scola, he’s got that long hair and when it gets sweaty and he starts flopping and flailing, it looks like he’s getting murdered out there.” Manu has kept it short recently, but long hair does help sell the call a lot.

Football gives players infinitely more room to dive. I’ve noticed that irrespective of the body part allegedly affected by contact, football players always clutch their heads in agony as if hiding their tears of anguish. Then they roll around on the field. It takes a lot of will power to not stomp the drama queens when they are in the midst of their Oscar worthy performance.

You’re not on hidden camera! We can see through you, quit the playacting!

In football, the players have a lot more to gain with a timely dive. They can get a cautioned player sent off or gain a free kick/penalty in a good spot. In basketball also, players can get sent off but there you need 6 fouls against one to send him to the dressing room. In basketball, there are three officials officiating the action. Same as in football, but in football two are linesmen and don’t contribute as much to officiating as the basketball referees do.

The question I’m considering is, is it ethical for a player to flop?

When it comes to sportsmanship, there’s no question that flopping and diving is in the realm of the lowest vermin. The game is meant to be won by skill, skill acquired through years of hard work. While it may be argued that Suarez and Ginobili have spent years in front of a mirror with a mat, perfecting the best possible way to flail their limbs and project the most horrific injury possible, that isn’t the skill which sports were designed to reward. Ball handling skills are valued. Shooting aim and power is lauded. But flopping is frowned upon.

Flopping isn’t valued, but it is rewarded through the ref’s whistle. Is it ethical to flop? A resounding “No!” is the easy answer. Look at it from a different point of view.

Consider two scenarios: you’re on a train coming down a track which branches into left and right. Five workers are on the left track, if you switch tracks you will kill them and if you don’t then you will kill the one large fat worker on the right track.

What would you do? Not switch tracks and kill the one instead of killing five right?

Now shift your perception this way:

There’s a train coming down the track headed towards those five workers. Their death is imminent. Unless you step in and shove the one fat worker in the path of the train. Being fat he will end up stopping the train.

In principle you will have saved five lives at the cost of one. Same as the first scenario. What would you do? A mere sift in perspective can result in such a drastic change in opinion. Now look at flopping like this:

You are in a match where the outcome will affect your teammates, coach, team and the supporters.

You are in a fistfight where the outcome will affect you and your family and well wishers.

In the match, your opponent is practicing unsportsmanlike tactics to gain the upper hand. He is flopping and diving around like Michael Phelps on steroids. And he gets an advantage over you.

In the fistfight, your opponent defies decency and kicks you below the belt. He gets an advantage over you.

Do you nut him back or do you continue to fight decently?

Do you flop and continue the vicious circle or do you fight decently?

I’m just playing devil’s advocate here. If you’re the shareholder of a company, you expect the company to explore every possible avenue it can get away within the eyes of law to advance its interests. NBA players have said that if there’s legitimate contact then they need to sell it by falling down. If they remain standing when fouled then they probably won’t get the call. The only reason why players continue to flop and dive is because it gives them a competitive advantage.

Why don’t we straight up eliminate that? Because these theatrics add drama to the game and give us something to gossip about. A touch of unpredictability. Something which instantly incites outrage from one and all. In this day and age with the help of electronic equipment, flopping and diving could be cracked down on easily. But it isn’t being done. Because it adds ‘masala’ (spice) to the games.

Players will take what they are given. If flopping and diving is egregious, then the leagues can stop it in a heartbeat. Until such time as the players continue to get rewarded through the whistle for this, flopping and diving is here to stay. If you are everyday put in a situation where you can either choose to watch 5 guys get hit by a train at the expense of one, the day will come when you start shoving the one fatty in the path to save the five. A day may come when you flop to sell the call or gain an advantage.

Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most dominant player of all time. His career was full of defenders flopping all around him, it was the only way to stop him. Few players hated flopping more than Shaq. “Cowards flop. If you’re a good defensive player, you shouldn’t have to flop. Defenders know they can’t stop me straight up, so they act like cowards and flop.”- said Shaq.

A few years later:

As long as it’s rewarded, there will be a case for a player to do it in the best interest of his team.

Siddarth Sharma - sidbreakball

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