Let me preface this article by making it clear that I am not a LeBron James hater. In fact, I’m quite the opposite. I love LeBron James. He is the best basketball player in the world right now (by far), and he is the most dominant player in all facets of the game that we have ever seen.
He has been, and will continue to be, so wonderful for the game of basketball and its growing popularity across the globe. He has become must-watch TV because you just KNOW that he’s going to do something that will make your jaw drop.
Unfortunately, he has been making my jaw drop for the wrong reasons lately. LeBron, can you PLEASE stop flopping all over the place like a dead fish? Don’t get me wrong: I completely understand the motives behind it.
As much as I hate to admit it, flopping has become a tactical part of the game of basketball. Fouls add up, and drawing a foul on your opponent is extremely valuable. Drawing a foul on Paul George is especially precious since it can take him out of the game, create matchup switches or at the very least get under his skin. But you are the greatest player on the planet, and it is not good for the game of basketball for you to be flopping–especially not on the game’s biggest stage.
The NBA made waves (via USA Today) prior to this regular season by unveiling its anti-flopping policy, and while those rules were supposed to be more stringent during the postseason (via NESN), these playoffs have shown that there is no cure in sight for the flopping epidemic. Fining James $5000 is certainly not going to affect him since he makes close to that amount in one minute on an NBA court. Too often have we seen flopping result in major calls that drastically affect the outcome of a game.
If Tyler Hansbrough hits the floor after Chris Andersen shoves him in Game 5, Birdman is ejected, there is no double-technical, and maybe that game ends differently. How do I know Birdman gets ejected? We’ve already witnessed the same play earlier in these playoffs. When LeBron dove backwards after Nazr Mohamed shoved him in the chest (exactly the same way that Birdman did to Hansbrough), it resulted in an ejection (via Sports Illustrated).
Obviously, a huge part of the onus must fall on the shoulders of the officials, who have an extremely difficult job as it is without the added responsibility of trying to determine what is and what isn’t a flop. But for the future of the NBA and the game of basketball in general, LeBron James HAS to stop flopping. He is a role model and icon for young basketball players across the world.
We’ve already seen Paul George flop to draw a foul on LeBron after the opposite happened three minutes earlier. A flop leads to another flop, but a LeBron James flop leads to a generation of young basketball fans watching the best player in the game stoop to levels of trickery that he need not stoop to.
Whether he wanted the title or not, LeBron is the game’s biggest ambassador. That’s what you get for hosting a live television event about your free agency decision. That’s what you get for boasting about how many championships you’re going to win before you’ve even won one. LeBron wanted all eyes on him, and they’re not looking anywhere else.
With all that attention and fanfare comes an added responsibility. I hate to compare James to Michael Jordan because it’s not fair to either of them. That said, they both hold positions as global representatives for the game of basketball, and Michael Jordan is a prime example of the lasting impact that such a figure can have on the future of the game.
Michael made baggy shorts cool. Michael is the reason that so many NBA players wear No. 23 (including LeBron James before he switched to No. 6). Michael is the player who redefined sports marketing for an individual player in a team game. Michael’s legacy is not only his six championship rings, but also the millions of people who were influenced by him in whatever way.
The bottom line is that flopping is not good for the game of basketball. It infuriates and alienates fans and severely undermines the authority and credibility of the officials (although Tim Donaghy has done his part). While the NBA is trying to take it out of the game (and they could certainly be doing more about it), change will come only from the players. As the biggest and brightest star, James has to lead the charge. He’s too good to resort to such tactics, and the game that has given him so much will be better off if he stops flopping.