In a 2012 NBA Finals press conference, Commissioner David Stern dropped the first hints of a forthcoming flopping policy, declaring that such theatrics “shouldn’t have a place in our game.” In October of the same year, the league sought to ensure just that – implementing a system in which players would receive a warning for their first flopping violation, followed by fines escalating in increments of $5,000 for each additional offense.
Looking strictly at the numbers for the 2012-’13 regular season, one would be inclined to deem the league’s effort a success: A mere nineteen players received warnings, with only five of them serving as repeat offenders. On paper, this would suggest that the new penalties made players reluctant to flop even once, let alone try to get away with it a second time.
But if the league has solved the flopping problem, thus restoring a measure of integrity to our beloved game, why is Chris Paul still content to pull a move like this? Why is Chauncey Billups given three dubious free throws with a minute left in a matchup against the Jazz, unjustly altering the outcome of the game and perhaps Utah’s playoff destiny? And finally, why in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals does Indiana’s Paul George have to yell at Mario Chalmers to “stop flopping” after burying a three over his unnecessarily sprawled out body?
The fact that Chalmers wasn’t even penalized for that embarrassing play says it all: The NBA does not enforce their policy nearly enough. You’d have to flop worse than “After Earth” for the league to take notice.
But perhaps the worst part is that even in the rare instance someone is penalized, the offender couldn’t care less. Blake Griffin laid out the players’ mentality best in an interview with the New York Times: “If it’s Game 7 of the NBA finals and a guy has a chance to make a play, he’s going to be like, ‘Well, do I want this $10,000 or do I want a championship?'”
Professional athletes are extremely competitive and extremely well compensated: As the 2013 playoffs have shown, players are more than willing to take a dive if it will get them the ‘W’, especially if the only thing at stake is a fraction of their weekly paycheck.
The solution? After receiving a warning and a $5,000 dollar fine for their first flop, players should receive a $10,000 dollar fine and a one game suspension for the next offense, with each additional offense costing them another $5,000 and an another game.
I suspect some will think this harsh. But I can guarantee you LeBron James wouldn’t have dared flop so egregiously in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals if it meant missing game seven. And you can be sure that if the rules remain as they are, it’s only a matter of time before a player’s cheap dive costs an opposing team a must win game. So I ask you: If it was your team that lost, would you get any measure of satisfaction from the offending player getting a $5,000 fine?
The flopping needs to stop and it needs to stop now. David Stern indicated as much before the 2013 NBA Finals, stating that the year old policy “isn’t enough.” So to Mr. Stern I say that the choice shouldn’t be between $10,000 and a championship. If we want to eliminate flopping from the game, the choice must be between competing for a championship or costing your team a shot.