Welcome, class, to Acting 101.
For our first lesson we will observe some of the best actors in the world, NBA athletes. Who knew the best route to Hollywood involved first playing in the NBA? Anyone following the NBA playoffs will know what I mean. The fantastic display of fouls and flops has added a whole new element to the game, making a mockery out of the freakish size and strength these guys possess.
We critique players on their talent, athleticism, shooting ability, court vision, basketball IQ, leadership, attitude, and coachability, but we seemingly need to add another criterion – acting ability. In a game where the best players already shamelessly get “star treatment” from the referees, this flaw is exacerbated by the circus-like flopping that occurs all over the court. James Harden could replace Jackie Chan in Rush Hour with his series of extravagant falls in the Western Conference finals. And as if he did not already get enough calls, LeBron James began auditioning for the latest Broadway during the Eastern Conference Finals. Clearly pleased with his performance, he topped off each flop by mocking the referees with a little tongue wag or wink.
The Miami Heat have showed the dangerous potential of the flop throughout this entire season. Beating teams that have more field goals, assists, and second chance points than them, the Heat have lived off trips to the charity stripe generously granted by naïve referees. By utterly dominating the number of free throws attempted each game (some legitimate, some not), the Heat have rode their star reputations all the way to the NBA finals.
Some people just shrug off the acting, calling it “part of the game.” But since when did duping the refs become such an integral aspect of each game? Trying to “make a play” should mean trying to beat the other player, not fooling the referee into giving an unfair advantage. The refs are there to ensure each game is fair (whether or not they do so is a whole other debate), but deliberately deceiving them to tip the balance in one team’s favor is not sportsmanlike, and is not how the game should be played.
This year’s playoffs have revealed how bad the epidemic has become. Just type in “NBA flop” or a similar search into Youtube and enjoy watching hours of the NBA’s best acting jobs, many of them during the playoffs. In previous years, the NBA has declared it will start handing out fines and suspensions for flops, but has continually failed to do so. The administration is just too reluctant to punish its “Golden Boy” in LeBron James amongst other players for such antics.
It is clear that something must be done. Previously the NBA added the half circle under the hoop to stop the flop, but it needs to do even better now. Whether it involves technical fouls, fines, suspensions, or cruel embarrassment, there must be some punishment to stop these grown men from crying wolf. It looks simply ridiculously when some of the largest humans on the earth crumble like a house of cards just to get a call they do not deserve. The point is, we tune in to watch basketball, not the Tony Awards.