Mark Cuban’s $100K sponsors a university’s study on the mechanics and fallout of NBA flopping

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban apparently agrees with about one hundred percent of basketball’s fandom when it comes to the practice of flopping to draw a foul call. In the years since he became Maverick owner in Jan. of 2000, Cuban has lightened his aggressive touch when it came to harassing refs from the sideline, or (if you’ll recall, from autumn of 2000) posting screenshots of a missed call on his team’s scoreboard following a loss for everyone to see.

Cuban is shooting for a more well-heeled, and subsequently more well-researched route these days. He’s sponsoring a team of biomechanics experts at Southern Methodist University, as they research the forces behind and end-result bottom lines from all of this flippity-flopping. From a press release:

The phenomenon is considered a widespread problem in professional basketball and soccer. To discourage the practice, the National Basketball Association in 2012 began a system of escalating fines against NBA players suspected of flopping, including during the playoffs, “NBA announces anti-flopping rules for playoffs.”

The Cuban-owned company Radical Hoops Ltd. awarded a grant of more than $100,000 to fund the 18-month research study at SMU, Dallas.

“The issues of collisional forces, balance and control in these types of athletic settings are largely uninvestigated,” said SMU biomechanics expert Peter G. Weyand, who leads the research team. “There has been a lot of research into balance and falls in the elderly, but relatively little on active adults and athletes.”

Good work, Mr. Cuban, professors, Peter, the elderly, Vlade.

I can safely say that I’m just about all out of patience with the art around flopping. Not the art of flopping, that grew tiresome in the late 1990s even before the NBA put the semi-circle around the basket to make block/charge calls easier. Rather, the unending, eye-rolling amount of chatter from mainstream bloggers, on-air analysts, and chanting fans.

Guys, we get it. NBA players flop. This is the end result of attempting to call a contest featuring the world’s greatest athletes properly.

The NBA’s referees, in a reaction to the clutch-and-grab style that made so many mid-1990s NBA games so rough to watch, started to more aggressively call contact. That decision made the games infinitely more watchable, but as a result players learned that the occasional quick movement following implied contact, or overstated reaction to real contact (or, as SMU puts it, the “deliberate act of falling, or recoiling unnecessarily from a nearby opponent, to deceive game officials”), could lead to a quick whistle from a ref that doesn’t know that he or she had been duped.

That’s the price you pay for accurately called games. Refereeing in the NBA is impossibly tough, and refs are forced into making split-second decisions with their whistles that they’ll sometimes regret. And even if it’s obvious in real time that this particular move was a flop and not a foul-worthy bit of contact, it hardly matters – referees are human, and humans make mistakes. Especially when they’re asked by their bosses to make calls instantly and with no hesitation, with an emphasis on discouraging physical play.

Fans are attempting to have it both ways. They complained endlessly about the rough style of ball in the 1990s, and now they’re unhappy that once or twice a game a player succeeds in using the referee-aggression against such physical play against itself. There’s a reason some websites have a “Flop of the Night.” It’s because the numbers of successful flops are far, far fewer in numbers than the amount of uncalled banging, charging, pushing, holding, and dislodging that was prevalent in your typical NBA playoff game from 1994.

Playoff games that, once again, people complained endlessly about. Because we’re never happy. Check out a comments section, if you disagree.

We applaud Cuban’s efforts, and with his generous donation and the big brains at SMU behind this, some fantastic work should come out of this extended batch of research.

Studies like these are what we should be after, though. Not endless kvetching about a problem that could be way, way worse. We don’t have to sit around and take it, when Derek Fisher shamelessly falls to the floor. Still, the noise surrounding these terrible, awful, censure-worthy art crimes of the highest order has gotten to be about as annoying as the practice of flopping itself.