The all-time flopping story happened well before flopping was in the basketball dictionary. There wasn't even a term for it 30 years ago, although Dave Cowens used some colorful language to describe it.
The former Celtics great, an undersized center known for his floor burns, went strong to the basket and was whistled for a charge when he slightly brushed a guard named Mike Newlin, who flew backward as though he'd been hit by a truck. Cowens became enraged, turning the color of his red hair, and screamed at the referee.
"That wasn't a foul," Cowens said. "That wasn't a foul."
The next time he had the ball, Cowens built up a head of steam and plowed right into Newlin, who fell to the court and saw stars. After being whistled, Cowens flipped the ball to the ref and said:
"Now that was a foul."
The more you watch some NBA games and see the orchestrated attempts to fool the refs, the more you feel like Cowens. You want to do something about it and wipe flopping out of the game for good, but guess what? It's not going anywhere. Flopping, the scourge of basketball, is here to stay, unfortunately.
Flopping was made possible partly when the act of drawing charges became not only accepted and rewarded, but taught. Suddenly, players planted their bodies in front of a hard-charging dribbler and put the game in the hands of the referees. And eventually, flopping evolved and developed into various forms as a result of contact-to-contact incidents. Not only were defensive players flopping, offensive players were, too.
There was no such thing as widespread flopping until the 1980s. And the act of drawing a charge was fairly rare until then. Back in the day of Bill Russell, defenders didn't chicken out of their responsibilities. Defenders played defense. They didn't plant themselves, they tried to block a shot or reach for a steal. They tried to prevent players from scoring by going for the ball. There's no video to substantiate this theory, but my hunch says Russell never tried to draw a charge in his life.
But somewhere at some point -- maybe poor Mike Newlin started a trend the hard way -- players discovered that you could play defense without actually playing defense. And when charging became the rage, coaches instructed players to stand like statues, especially against taller and bigger players so they could get the sympathy call from the refs, and use their quick reflexes to influence the call. Strange how some of the early floppers, like Reggie Miller, are suddenly the biggest critics of the art form they helped create and popularize.
This season the NBA instituted a fine system for floppers and the league stuck its chin out when it announced flopping was down compared to past years. But here in the playoffs, flopping is back, stronger than ever. And sillier than ever. And impacting games more than ever.
Did you see the nonsense that Tony Allen pulled off against the Spurs? He was airborne when he was hacked on the arm by Manu Ginobili. Allen fell to the floor and immediate began holding his head and wriggling like a snake. It all happened so fast, and, therefore, the refs, believing Allen was seriously harmed and flagrantly fouled, blew the whistle. Problem is, Allen's head never touched the floor.
And then Tuesday night in Indiana was an all-out flop-fest, with Dwyane Wade flopping, and Lance Stephenson flopping twice in a span of seconds, and LeBron James and David West flopping at the same time. There better be plenty of fines coming before Game 5, if only to send a message that flopping won't be tolerated.
But it also won't be stopped.
What you don't want to see is the league issuing technical fouls for flopping, because then games could be decided on a referee's interpretation in some cases. What the league needs to do is take additional steps to discourage players from drawing charges and force them to, you know, actually play defense with their hands and move their feet. Make it harder for a defender to get that call.
Even that won't exterminate the process entirely. Let's face it, the game you grew up with is now being overtaken by floppers. Russell and Cowens aren't coming back to save us from it, either.