Referees exist to push the game forward in a fair and balanced manner. They police the players and ensure that everyone is playing properly. They call players out for cheating or other misconduct, sometimes having to go to the extreme and eject a player or coach from the game. They need to keep a watchful eye on everything and they need to make calls that are going to make half of the fans watching very angry. They have a tough job that I don’t envy in the slightest. Last night the Indiana Pacers lost their battle against the Miami Heat in Game 7, ending their season and allowing the Heat to advance. They put up a hell of a fight over the series, but it wasn’t enough. In some instances, one team simply outplayed the other to secure their victory. In other instances, the game was lost because of the referees.
I’m no basketball expert; I started paying attention to games again when I moved to Indiana about 5 1/2 years ago and I still have to have my husband explain certain things to me. Basketball is a business and to me, it sometimes feels like the refs have been instructed to favor one team over the other during the finals in order to ensure both teams make it to game 7 and therefore make the NBA more cash by selling more tickets. Other times it feels as if I’m watching the WWE, where outcomes are determined and the ref is there just to play along and make it look good.
The biggest issue I have is with the NBA players flopping in order to draw the foul. These are very large grown men who work out on a regular basis and seem to enjoy the tough guy image that comes with being an athlete. I find it hard to believe that a slight nudge from the opposing team is enough to send one of these men sprawling, yet we see it in each and every game. I can somewhat understand doing it if someone throws an elbow and it’s in an effort to get out of the way and not absorb the full hit, but I don’t see any reason for it during regular fair play.
Lebron James stated “It’s kind of the same as when people said I was overrated, I have the same response. I don’t need to flop. I play an aggressive game but I don’t flop. I’ve never been one of those guys. I don’t need to flop. I don’t even know how to do it. So it doesn’t mean much to me.” Yet in this video and this montage and in countless other instances, you can clearly see this 6’8″ man throwing himself to the ground like a toddler throwing a tantrum in order to draw the foul and go to the line. Even when he is shoved, as in this video while playing the Bulls, he reacts with drama and throws himself into a slide. Come on, I get that the shove was mostly unwarranted but there is no way there was enough force to drive him to the ground and halfway across the court.
Flopping makes a mockery of the sport and costs many good teams an honest win. According to a 2012 article, “the amount of flopping has become so excessive the NBA Commissioner voiced his disgust stating that flopping was ruining the NBA brand and it had no place in the game of basketball. Flopping has not only decided the outcomes of games but also has impacted the NBA playoff picture and also determined which team hoisted NBA Finals Trophy at season’s end.” Even so, too many players seem to think flopping is the way to go. To quote Lebron again, “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.”
Players can and will be fined for flopping, but what is a few thousand dollars to these players? If a player knows that a couple of flops will win a series, does anyone expect a ten grand fine to be enough to convince a player to stop flopping and lose the series? If a team is down a few points and the opposition’s defense is simply too strong, a couple of well placed flops to earn foul shots can be the difference between a win and a loss. The fines can be worth the cost for some players if it means advancing in a series and making it to the finals. The team is appreciative of the win and the player, although fined and mocked a bit, is rewarded and praised for getting those foul shots and helping win the game.
The beauty of the sport is lost when players flop and refs allow it. Thanks to multiple camera angles and the ability to replay and slow down the action, the refs have no excuse for allowing flops to turn into fouls and to continue to reward the players who throw themselves to the ground dramatically. Fines are not enough. Players should be made to feel ridiculous for flopping and be penalized more strictly than simply giving up a tiny portion of their paycheck. Flops should not be brushed over and ignored, they should be called out as bad sportsmanship and the flopper (and his team) should not be rewarded in any way for it. If I was better versed in the game, I’m sure I could offer better solutions for the flopping problem, but I’m just a simple girl who recognizes that it’s the wrong way to go. All I know is that unless the people who matter change their view and buckle down, we’re just going to see more and more great teams take a loss due to “great” players falling on their ass instead of being strong athletes and properly playing the game.