What Is Flopping In Basketball? (Is It Legal?)

With how many players flop in the NBA now, it’s impossible not to have heard of the term flop by now.

But what does it really mean, and is it legal?

Flopping is the act of exaggerating contact to bait foul calls. It’s illegal in most professional leagues like the NBA, with the penalty being a technical foul or a fine. But it shouldn’t be confused with selling a foul.

So, what exactly is a flop, and how do you spot one? Plus, who is the king of flops in the NBA?

If you’re curious to find out, you’re in the right place.

What is Flopping in Basketball?

If you’re a basketball fan, you’ve definitely heard the term flop before. It’s a word that’s uttered a lot in professional, amateur, and even local games.

Flopping is the act of fooling everyone, especially the referees, into thinking that you got fouled.

Fouls are typically excessive or unsportsmanlike contact made by one player to another.

But since officials only rely on their eyes to determine if a foul has occurred, sometimes flops may be called fouls.

That’s because they can look like legit reactions to fouls, especially if executed perfectly. But officials today are getting used to flops, and so most flops are called out now.

Flopping is not just present in basketball. It’s present in other sports, too, particularly football. In fact, it’s believed to have started with football and was started in the NBA three decades ago.

Why do Basketball Players Flop?

Why exactly do basketball players flop? We know that they mainly do this to bait fouls.

But are there other benefits to it? Let’s find out.

1. To bait foul calls

The main or only reason why a player flops are to bait foul calls.

We know that fouls are excessive contact made by one player to another. So, it’s easy for a player to bait foul calls by acting as if he got fouled.

That’s why you’ll see guys fall intentionally with even the slightest push by the opponent. This is to sell to the referee that he’s been fouled. But there’s no way they would fall with those types of contacts.

So instead of just defending or scoring properly, they’d rather flop to get easy free throws.

2. To get in the head of opponents

Sometimes a flop can have an added benefit for a player. By flopping so much, you can get in the head of the opponent.

This is especially effective if the referee gives the flopper the foul calls he doesn’t deserve.

When this happens, the opponents might get frustrated, which can translate to poor performance.

3. To take some time to rest

Flopping may also give the team a few seconds or minutes of rest.

When a foul occurs, the clock is stopped, and the referees will relay the foul to the scorer’s table.

These few seconds may seem like a quick intermission from a fan’s perspective. But to the players on the court, they’re precious seconds. They allow players to catch their breath and restart.

Is Flopping Legal in the NBA?

In the NBA and most professional leagues, flopping is NOT ALLOWED.

In the NBA, a technical foul is called on the player who flopped. Even a fine will be imposed if they repeat a second time.

For repeat offenders up to the fifth time, the fine would rise from $5,000 all the way up to $30,000. Then, if the player flops for the sixth time, an increased fine may be imposed or even suspended.

In FIBA, the penalty for flopping is a technical foul. The same is true in the NCAA, as they recently implemented this rule.

How to Spot Players Who Flop

Flops aren’t always easy to spot. Sometimes they’re done so brilliantly that we wonder if they’re really flops.

But as a rule of thumb, there are usually tell-tale signs as when a player flops:

  • They will react excessively even if they’re not hit
  • They will react with a delay after slight contact with the opponent
  • They will react quickly and make jerky movements

Take note that flopping is different from selling a foul. Flopping is illegal, but selling a foul is allowed. A foul really occurred in the latter it’s just that the player will sell it to have the call definitely.  

Thankfully, multiple cameras are all around the arena for most professional games. So, it’s becoming easy to spot players who flop as there are cameras in multiple angles.

NBA Players Who Flop the Most

In the NBA, flopping has become part of the game so much that there might be a flop that goes unnoticed every now and then.

That said, some players take it to the extreme. These are players that have made flopping a part of their game now.

So, who are these players?

1. Marcus Smart

If you search on YouTube, you’ll see a lot of flop compilations that Marcus Smart is a part of.

That’s just a testament to how often he’s flopped over the years. So much so that his flops look ridiculous now rather than annoying.

Surprisingly, he won the Defensive Player of the Year in the 2021-22 NBA season.

Now, we won’t know just how much his flops contributed to this award, but he flops a lot.

2. James Harden

Another NBA player that’s known to flop a lot is James Harden.

But what makes Harden’s flops impressive is his ability to manipulate other players.

His infamous rip-through move is where he’ll drive to the basket and tangle his arm around another player on the way to making a layup. This makes it seem like a foul to referees, which was how he got a lot of calls.

But now, he just complains a lot since referees have caught on to his antics.

3. Chris Paul

It seems that many good defensive players also flop a lot, as Chris Paul is on this list.

Although an elite defender, Chris Paul is known for his flops. His flops are dangerous because he has a high IQ, so he sometimes gets away with the perfect flops.

4. LeBron James

We can’t deny LeBron’s greatness, but we can’t also deny his flops.

The reason why a lot of people hate him is that he flops a lot. He can’t seem even to take the slightest contact for how big his body is.

But some of the hate is undeserved since most players flop nowadays.

5. Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry is also a great defender but a frequent flopper.

He’s made it a habit to flop whenever there’s even the slightest contact with him.

One of the worst flops he’s done is against the Houston Rockets in 2019. It was when PJ Tucker slightly touched his head as he went past him. But Lowry reacts so late that even James Harden knows that he flopped.

Is Flopping Ever Going Away?

It’s apparent that flopping has infiltrated basketball so deeply now, especially in the NBA.

It’s just how the game has evolved. It’s the same as when teams started taking threes now, more than ever, thanks to Stephen Curry and GSW.

Although the league has made rules for fine floppers, they still do it to this day.

So, it’s impossible to see flopping going away anytime soon.

Final Thoughts

Flopping is an epidemic occurring in the NBA and most professional leagues today. It’s illegal, and there are penalties imposed to prevent flopping.

However, it might not go away anytime soon since it’s now deeply rooted in the game.

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