Basketball is a physical game, and particularly in the paint. While some physical contact is fine, and should be encouraged, other times it will be a foul. It is unfortunate, but at one point or another every single player will exaggerate this contact to get the foul. This exaggeration is also known as flopping, and some players have mastered flopping and have a knack of getting the whistles to go their way time and time again.
Whilst these players, or floppers as they are known, may get the calls for the team, they also do not command much respect from other players, fans and sometimes even their teammates. It is bending the rules, unsportsmanlike and often a flop will be so dramatic that it looks as if a player has been shot. They will fall to floor dramatically, throwing their arms in the air as they look to the referee with a look of astonishment on their face. The contact and physical battles down low are a key factor in basketball and make the game much more enjoyable.
There is a reason that players spend a huge amount of time in the weight room adding muscle, and this is because they know that they are going to get bumped around each night. Floppers take this physical battle away from the game, and this is much to the annoyance of those who enjoy watching players using their size, strength and speed against one another.
The NBA has taken measures to curtail flopping, and this is in the form of a warning the first time a player is caught flopping, followed by fines in increments of $5,000 each time after this. In the playoffs they are fined the first time and the fines are larger. This does little to deter many players however, and the NBA has a long way to go until flopping is eradicated from the game.
Here are the 15 biggest floppers in NBA history.
15 Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce has never been the most athletic player, but what he lacks in explosiveness he makes up for in intelligence. He knows how to use his body to get good looks at the basket and has a huge arsenal of excellent moves, but he also knows how to exaggerate contact and draw fouls. When coming off of screens, Pierce will often throw his head back when his defender is near him, making it seem as if he is being held back. He will also do this when attacking the basket, as well as yell out to get the referee’s attention and make it seem as if he has been fouled. There is no denying Pierce is a fantastic player, but he is also a sneaky one who knows how to get calls go his way.
14 Robert Horry
Robert Horry is best remembered for hitting some of the biggest game winning shots in NBA history, but it should also be remembered that he was a huge flopper. He may have seven rings to his name, but Horry’s tendency to exaggerate contact and easily fall to the floor lost him the respect of many in the game. It was on defence where Horry was at his irritating in terms of flopping, falling hard and exaggerating contact with small guards despite his thick frame and towering presence at 6-foot-9. Still, with an impressive seven rings to his name and couple of unforgettable game winners, I’m sure Horry has no regrets.
13 John Stockton
Stockton may be one of the greatest point guards to ever grace the hardwood, but he was also a flopper throughout his playing career. The crafty Jazz point guard would also rile up his opponent through fouls and cheap shots, but due to his intelligence he would often get away with it. Stockton is one of the most respected guards to have graced the game and his stellar play has inspired dozens of aspiring players, but he also had a crafty flop or two in his back pocket which he would not hesitate to use at the right time.
12 Chris Paul
Chris Paul is easily one of the best, and most exciting, points guards of his generation, but unfortunately he will often flop and bend the rules to his advantage. Due to his size and style of play, Paul does get bumped around but he sometimes looks for this contact and then exaggerates it to get the call. Additionally, Paul is also notorious for pretending to be fouled on a 3-point shot and this has become a problem in the NBA in the last few years. This is the only down side to Paul’s game, but until the NBA find a way to stamp it out flopping will be rife throughout the league and even done by the best in the game.
11 LeBron James
LeBron James is one of the best athletes in the world and remarkably strong when attacking the basket, which is what makes it so bizarre to see him grossly exaggerate contact on occasion. One minute he will wrap the ball up, shrug off three players and finish strong at the basket, and then on the defensive end he will fall to the hardwood as if he has been shot with a cannon. At around 250 pounds, LeBron is usually bigger and stronger than who he is matched up with, but it will often be James that is rolling around on the floor. In addition to this, LeBron constantly complains to the referee about any physical contact, and being “The King”, he will often get his way.
Although he does not flop as often as many on this list, this is an area which LeBron needs to eliminate from his game as it takes away from his greatness.
10 Karl Malone
“The Mailman” may be second on the all-time scoring list, but he was also despised by many due to the length of time he spent on the floor trying to get a call go his way. Malone was a 260 pound power forward who wouldn’t have looked out of place in the NFL, so there are not too many players that could knock him to the ground too easily. It appeared otherwise however, as he was frequently seen tumbling to the ground upon minimal contact on the defensive end before he would beat up on players down in the post down the other end of the floor. He also had a few tricks up his sleeve, much like his partner in crime John Stockton, and he could use these to bend the rules and get calls to go his way.
Actually it all kind of makes sense considering Malone wrestled a few matches in WCW and was quite good at it. That must be why he was able to make a smooth transition to wrestling, where selling contact is all part of the show.
9 Shane Battier
Towards the end of his career, Battier was used solely to draw offensive fouls and knock down the occasional three. He was good at anticipating where a player was going to go and get there first, but often he was reckless in stepping in front of defenders and somehow no one was ever seriously injured. He would also heavily exaggerate contact a lot of the time, going down rather easily and throwing his arms out to attract attention. Battier was an elite defender and great “glue-guy” earlier in his career, but his role as “charge taker” and his label as a flopper lost him the respect of many when he finished his career in Miami.
8 Raja Bell
When you become known as a player that takes a lot of charges, it usually means that you are a flopper. Bell was an excellent one-on-one defender, and like many other entries on this list he wasn’t afraid to get physical. If you tried to do the same with him however, then you would find him hitting the deck and rolling around as if you had just punched him in the gut. There is no doubt that Raja Bell was a very good defender, but it is hard to condone his actions when he would bend the rules, exaggerate contact and play in an unsportsmanlike manner.
7 Derek Fisher
Derek Fisher is one of the more muscular point guards to play the game, but despite his strength he would frequently heavily exaggerate any contact to get a foul. He was not the quickest of guards, so he made up for this by acting as if he was shot when players tried to get past him. Fisher excelled at flopping when “taking charges”, but he would also often initiate contact on the offensive end and fall rather theatrically to the floor. It cannot be condoned, but there is no denying that Derek Fisher knew how to flop and there are not many guards that have mastered the practice as well as him.
6 Reggie Miller
Regular readers may remember that Reggie Miller topped a recent article titled top 15 irritating players in NBA history, and his penchant for flopping is a contributing factor to this. Unlike the majority of players on this list, Miller’s flopping was more on the offensive end than defensive. His stick figure frame certainly helped his case as it was believable that he could be knocked flying, and Miller was also famous for getting in the referee's ear throughout the game.
It is also Miller who is responsible for jumpshooters sticking their leg out to make contact, as he would frequently use this on 3-point shots to draw fouls when really the whistle should be going the other way. Many shooters now do this and referees have a hard time determining which way the call should go. With Miller flopping, complaining to referees and winding up his opponent it meant that it would be a busy night for the referee anytime the Pacers were playing.
5 Anderson Varejao
Varejao is notoriously bad for crying to the referee when things get a bit physical in the post, and unfortunately he will often get his way the next trip down the court. For a player that is 6-foot-11 and 267 pounds, Varejao spends an awful lot of time on the deck and this irritates other Bigs to no end. His hair bounces around dramatically when a player tries to post him up, and this surely helps his case as it makes the contact more noticeable. Varejao does not bring a tremendous amount else to the table, making him a player that not too many respect around the league. He may often get his way now, but in the more physical 90s era he would not have stood a chance against many of the great, tough players from this period.
Varejao was voted the “best flopper” by other players in the league in 2011.
4 Danny Ainge
Flopping became a prominent feature of NBA games during the late 80s and early 90s, but Danny Ainge was flopping in Boston and college before it was trendy. Ainge is famous for playing hard nosed basketball, and particularly on the defensive end, but he was also famous for his theatrics when it came to physical contact. He would also complain to referees throughout the game, and this would ensure that they were watching out for any excessive contact which he of course would then feign. All floppers on this list will have watched Ainge and learnt from him.
3 Manu Ginobli
Even though Manu Ginobli is a terrific player and one who commands a lot of respect around the league, he is also a notorious flopper. He does not do this so much anymore, and this is largely due to the fact that he has had to change his game as he has aged and this sees him attack the paint not so forcefully. Over his career he has been guilty of falling over on jumpshots under no contact, flailing his limbs dramatically when attacking the paint and falling down heavily under minimal contact on the defensive end. Ginobli is famously a crafty and intelligent player, and unfortunately he is guilty of flopping to gets calls go his way and he has succeeded often in this.
2 Bill Laimbeer
One of the Detroit Pistons “Bad Boys” and the player whose job it was to rough players up each night, Bill Laimbeer was also one of the biggest floppers the NBA has seen. He was far from a fan favourite outside of Detroit due to his aggressive play, and then bizarrely he would also flop frequently. This combination of being aggressive and then exaggerating contact make him one of the more hated players of all time, but he was also highly successful and knew how to get under his opponent's skin.
“The Laimbeer flop” became a common sight around the league, where he would hit the deck after an opponent brushed past him and more often than not he would get the call.
1 Vlade Divac
Flopping is a common sight in today’s game, and unfortunately much of it has to do with Vlade Divac. Whilst certainly a skilled player and one that opened the door for many international players to come in, Divac was also notorious for flopping and some would say he turned it into an “art form”. When players, particularly Shaq, began to post up the Serbian, he would suddenly fall to the floor and roll around like a fish out of water. Divac struggled to adjust to the fast pace and physical side of the NBA when he entered the league, but he soon learnt that by exaggerating the contact and throwing his body around he could get calls to go his way. Soon players caught on, and flopping has since become a huge part of the game and something that is difficult to officiate.