October 1, 2012
The National Basketball Association has recently instituted a flopping rule that punishes players for exaggerating physical contact in an attempt to goad the referees into making charging calls* (or in other words “flopping” onto the ground). A league official will review game tape of every single contest in the NBA and issue penalties and fines to each player who is found guilty of flopping. The prevalence of flopping in the NBA has become deleterious to the integrity of the game. Allowing any player to influence referees and affect the outcome of games through deliberately passive play undermines the sportsmanship of the game of basketball. Flopping is hurting the game of basketball. However, this time the NBA made the wrong call this time.
The most effective way to change a behavior is through through understanding the system that leads to permanent change. According to Dr. Alex Lickerman, M.D., there are 5 stages to any change, precontemplation, contemplation, determination, action, and maintenance. In the precontemplation stage, the person has not even considered changing and the mention of it causes a negative reaction. In the contemplation stage, the person has started to consider that he/she wants to change themselves and is moving toward a solution. After time has been spent thinking about the change, the person finally makes a decision to make the change. They will have, in effect, determined their path. Next, their plan to change their behavior must be acted upon and maintained. According to Lickerman, a permanent change needs to be internalized before it has an outward expression.
The approach to changing the actions of players that the National Basketball Association has taken does not encourage them to modify their behavior for personal reasons. It simply chastises them for any errant behavior. This newly incorporated system is closer to a reward/punishment system, except there is no feasible reward. And, even the punishment is not administered properly. In order for disciplinary actions to have the proper effect, they have to be given swiftly and constantly. The day that will elapse between the time when a player commits the rules violation and the point when he is fined will buffer the impact of the punishment instead of the fine acting as a strong deterrent to flopping. The NBA has effectively instituted a new disciplinary rule that has no teeth.
The answer to the dilemma of flopping in the NBA is really simple. Let the referees do what they are paid to do which is make tough calls. The NBA has spent hours trying to police referees and make the rules more amiable for the common fan. They tried putting a semi-circle in the painted area under the rim to make the block/charge call easier. If a defensive player’s feet were inside the circle when he made contact with the offensive player, then the violation was a block (against the defensive player). If the defensive player’s feet were set outside of the semi-circle, then the call was a charge against the offense. It only confused the fans and moved the referees eyes away from the other critical parts of the play. There are numerous finer points to refereeing and NBA officials are more than capable of making sound judgments in difficult situations. They made these decisions for sixty years with few controversial calls before the NBA’s Rule Changes Committee attempted to “fix” the block/charge call. The NBA should allow the referees to use their judgement. Let them asses the plays and rule block, charge, or no call at all. Every questionable block or charge should be reviewed by the league, and the referees who miss too many calls or have poor explanations for their decisions should be disciplined. Flopping only exists because If the NBA stopped rewarding players for taking charges more than they reward them for making a great play on the ball, then flopping would stop. And ultimately, the league will be better for it.
*A charging call or violation occurs when an offensive player forcefully impedes on the position that a defensive player has established. The block/charge call is one of the most difficult and subjective calls that NBA referees have to make because there are many separate factors that contribute to whether a violation should be called against the defensive player or the offensive player including but not limited to: Were the defensive player’s feet set or did the defender shift to create contact? Did the offensive player drop his shoulder into the defender? Was the offensive player out of control? Who initiated the contact? If both players were airborne, did the defender jump straight up? Did the defender swing down? Any of these questions can change a block to a charge or vice versa.