The Art of ‘Flopping’

Fisher DiSimone, Staff Writer

The NBA is a league that is changing year after year, and players are a large reason why it does. Each player holds their own unique skill set which complements his game and impact on the court. Throughout history, some players have exploited the game and its flaws, causing rules to be put into place to stop these acts, which change the game more than one would think. For example, during the early 90s the flagrant foul was implemented due to hard fouls being committed with little to no penalty given, and going even further back, during the 1950s around the NBA’s start, they expanded the lane from 6 to 12 feet due to big men like centers and power forwards capitalizing too much on the paint. However, even this wasn’t enough as they later expanded it another 4 feet around a decade later. The most recent rule change happened at the beginning of this season, with the intention of cutting down on foul hunting, more popularly known as “flopping.” 

Once the NBA noticed that players would take advantage of this these past few years, they finally began to zero in on the technique and started to take measures to stop it. Some players who were most notoriously known for these actions were Trae Young and James Harden. At the end of the 2021 season, the NBA announced that in order to cut down on foul hunting, they would try to start giving no-calls for foul hunting. For example, if a player were to fake a foul by dramatically falling to the ground, the referees would deem it as a no foul, and the “contact” is fair play so they would continue the game. Fans were ecstatic at this, as flopping made games boring and repetitive, as the same players who mastered this “art” ended up taking 10+ free throws a game. Once the season began, this was noticed immediately as the stars of flopping started to get no-calls, which resulted in a decrease of their game. Some guys named before (Trae Young and James Harden) both started very poorly; this is because when they went up to flop they didn’t try to get the ball in the hoop, but rather tried to sell a contact foul in the act of shooting to get free throws. Now that these don’t get called, it took a large toll on their FG (field goal) percentage, which is their percentage of shots going in from anywhere on the court. This not only hurt themselves, it also hurt their teams. Trae Young and the Hawks sit at 28-30 (10th seed) and despite James Harden recently being traded to the 76ers, he still accounted for a lot of the Nets successes and regression as they sit at 31-28 (8th seed). These two teams had high expectations going into the season, both coming off of deep playoff runs and heavy success during the 2021 regular season. Yes, this flopping rule does not account for their overall struggles this year as there has been a lot of injury trouble, Covid protocols, and other issues they face, but it stills plays a vital role in how these teams used to, and currently, operate as this rule change completely altered their game plan throughout the season.

The main question is as follows: Do these measures to stop flopping change the NBA drastically? I’d say the quick answer is no; however, it did definitely take some time to get used to from the start of the season to now. Even though there were two teams presented in this article as victims of this rule change, it did change the game plans of every team, as these fouls used to be easy to come by. At the end of the day, this rule change was for the better, as a large majority of NBA fans extremely disliked foul hunting, and on top of that, it didn’t take long for teams to adapt to the change making “flopping” a thing of the past.

* photo via Google Images under the Creative Commons license