The NBA Finals are getting some heat for all the flopping from an unlikely source.
A respected soccer analyst.
"The NBA is just as bad as soccer if not worse for diving or flopping or whatever you want to call it," former U.S. men's soccer player Eric Wynalda tells ThePostGame. "The unfortunate reality is that you will do anything to get an advantage -- to win."
Funny how the definition of "flop" has changed. When American Dick Fosbury perfected a new form of high jumping at the 1968 Summer Olympics, a new sports term was coined: The Fosbury Flop. Its alliteration made it sound so cool, so different. Everyone wanted to do it. A generation later, flopping is among the greatest of sports sins.
Flopping is the act -- or is it the art? -- of falling to the ground with such dramatic flair that a penalty is called on the opponent. LeBron James is only the latest to master it. His falling down act on a drive through the lane in Game 4 of the NBA Finals (replays showed he was never touched) reminded many of his antics in the previous round, when he clutched his face after seemingly being hit by Derrick Rose (replays again showed there was no contact). It's given the legions of LeBron haters another reason to knock him.
In soccer, such acts are the expected norm. And they often put a stain on the game in its biggest moments. One of many memorable incidents took place in the 2010 World Cup, when Brazil's Kaka was given a red card for hitting Keita of the Ivory Coast in the face. The card knocked Kaka out of Brazil's next game -- a worthy penalty except for one fact: Replays showed (wait for it!) there was no contact.
But NBA flopping has been an issue since before LeBron was even in high school. The most noted hoops floppers played in the 1980s on the Detroit Pistons' Bad Boys teams. Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman had no trouble being physical -- and no trouble faking it either.
The rest of the league caught on. In fact, years ago the Mavericks used tapes of Laimbeer to show their players how to do it.
Simply put, everyone's doing it.
In every sport, too. It just looks a bit worse when LeBron does it because unlike any soccer player, The King is a giant of a man who's wilting like Natalie Portman in The Black Swan.
But he's in good company. Last September, the Yankees' Derek Jeter, one of the most respected baseball players of his generation, was caught faking that an inside pitch hit him (it actually hit his bat) in a game against the Rays. Jeter grabbed his hand and doubled over in pain while receiving (alleged) medical treatment. Rays' manager Joe Maddon argued with umpire Lance Barksdale until he was thrown out.
Afterward, Jeter admitted it was all an act.
"He told me to go to first base. I'm not going to tell him I'm not going to first, you know," Jeter said. "It's part of the game. My job is to get on base."
Is it part of the game? Wynalda argues yes.
"Whether you like it or not," he says, "it comes with the territory. It is part of the show, part of the entertainment. It is there, it is part of the discussion that people love to argue about. Any time you get a top guy, he is going to polarize opinion, and people are going to talk about his actions."
Maddon -- even though he was a victim -- actually defended Jeter after the game.
"If our guys had done it, I would have applauded that. It's a great peformance on his part," he said at the time. "Several players are very good at that. And again, I'm not denigrating it. If our guy does it, I'm very happy with that if we end up getting the call."
Leagues have attempted to crack down on it. Soccer, for instance, allows its officials to hand out cards -- even red cards -- if it's determined that a player has taken a dive in an attempt to get a call. This has happened in the Stanley Cup playoffs this very spring.
The reality, however, is that flopping or flailing or diving -- or whatever you want to call it -- is going to be a part of sports until the perpetrators stop. Or retire.
So for all you kids out there: flop until you drop.
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