As brilliant, talented and valuable as he's proven to be over the course of his stellar NBA career, Chris Paul(notes) has developed a rather nasty reputation as a flopper. This is proven definitively by the fact/factorial that a Yahoo! search for chris paul flop returns more than 3.3 million results. Supporting factora/"Factotum" come via watching Paul drop to the deck after making any sort of contact with an opponent, or by talking to fans of most Western Conference teams that are not the New Orleans Hornets. (Especially people who like the San Antonio Spurs. Spurs fans really don't like this.)
You'd imagine that Oklahoma City Thunder fans aren't necessarily thrilled about it either, especially after watching Paul flail beneath the body of a driving Russell Westbrook(notes) during the second quarter of Monday night's contest in New Orleans. As you can see in the clip above, the Hornets' all-world point guard clearly sidesteps the contact, extends his right arm into Westbrook's, um, thigh, and promptly hits the floor like he just took a charge from '85-style Charles Barkley.
NOTE: If the clip above isn't rocking for you, or if you'd like to check out a clip of the play from the perspective of the Thunder's broadcast team, please feel free to peruse the Westbrook flop courtesy of our friends at Daily Thunder.
My sense is that most fans generally oppose flopping, certainly oppose flopping-as-standard-defensive-procedure and tend to view players regarded as floppers — your Manu Ginobilis, your Anderson Varejaos, your Vlade Divacs, et al. — as in some essential way lesser than those who don't paint with that particular brush. (Zach Lowe doesn't think that way, and has a sharp take on the matter up at The Point Forward.)
Whatever you think about flopping, though, it's inarguable that this particular flop didn't work; the officials rightly whistled Paul for simulation, much to the dismay of the Louisiana faithful. This kind of thing tends to happen when you start wearing the scarlet F — you get all the negative associations of the stigma without the fouls-drawn benefit, because refs begin looking at you as The Bro Who Cried Ouch. (It's worth noting, as Royce Young wrote at Daily Thunder Tuesday, that Paul did get the benefit of the doubt on a few other plays of questionable merit Monday night.)
Luckily for Paul, there is a model he can follow here — a true master of the form who blazed a trail that could allow CP3 to redeem his flopping and possibly regain whatever measure of respect may have been lost along the way.
I'm speaking, of course, of Ric Flair.
As the video above clearly demonstrates, flopping was a linchpin of Flair's in-ring presentation — a classic bit of physical comedy that served as a leveling element, a pinprick to puncture the balloon of the black-hat character he frequently portrayed. It grew into an integral part of his persona; over the years, it became a standard beat that audiences not only expected to see during a Flair match, but even got stoked to watch and applauded when it was finally dusted off and brought out. His commitment to that bit earned the respect of countless viewers.
That's what Paul needs — to sharpen his flopping game to Flairesque levels and establish a real, at-least-once-per-game-and-twice-in-big-games commitment to the dive. Once his reputation switches from "shiftless faker" to "unbridled craftsman," refs will have no choice but to grant him calls — calls he'll have rightfully earned through sheer strength of performance. Fans, opponents and rival announcers alike will be forced to kowtow to his floundering acumen, on the Wes Mantooth/"I pure, straight hate you, but dammit, I respect you" tip.
Plus, setting this whole shebang up should be pretty easy. Flair's a longtime Hornets fan dating back to the franchise's days in Charlotte, the team plays a clip of Flair's signature "Whoo!" each time Paul scores (a practice initiated for Baron Davis(notes) buckets when he was piloting the team in Charlotte), and Flair introduced the Hornets' players during a home game back in April 2008. The relationship's already in place; now Paul just has to submit to the tutelage. He should probably rock one of those slick robes, too, just for maximum effect.
Or, he could stop flopping. Either/or, really.