LeBron James had just been shot. Recoiling in agony, his arms flying into the stadium-lit night air, he was assassinated in front of a crowd of 20,000 people. I immediately began looking for a grassy knoll, eyes bulgingly scanning the crowd for the shooter, and somewhere members of LeBron’s crew probably leapt off their gold-plated chairs screaming into their Bluetooth headsets, “We’ve got a shooter!!!!”
He fell to the ground, tattooed arms instinctively reaching for his undoubtedly gaping exit wound. Madison Square Garden had just become a gigantic crime scene; a nightmarish scene with thousands of eye witnesses to a brutal, brutal murder. Nicolas Cage himself may have been the only one who could solve a diabolical murder plot at such a gigantic sporting event.
Then, a miracle! LeBron was alive. The Chosen One (*Author’s note: which he has tattooed across his bulging back, in case anyone was going to forget) decided, in that moment, to show us just how chosen he really was. Like a majestic, 27 PPG-averaging Phoenix he rose from the ashes of certain doom.
He was going. . .to try. . .to. . .walk. . .it. . .off.
Grimacing so mightily he chewed through his mouthguard like it was a soggy slice of a peach, he stood. The crowd held their breath wondering silently, “Was LeBron about to go all Teddy Roosevelt in this piece?”
He took a few steps, wincing visibly. I was certain that his spinal cord had been exploded into runny pudding, you know, like the kind that’s been sitting on a buffet line for 4 hours. I feel certain that I can speak for the entire nation when I say that tears welled up in our eyes as we watched this leviathan courageously attempt to fight through his traumatic injury.
He took a few steps. . .then grabbed wildly at his neck. I felt certain that he was simply holding his now-decapitated head on with his bare hands and, at any moment, it would come tumbling off like he’d just been guillotined in the French Revolution.
Or at least this is what LeBron James wanted us to believe.
It’s this moving depiction of an injured player trying to fight through the pain — a shtick that’s so laughably overdone that it’s burned to a crisp — as presented by one of the NBA’s great new talents in the acting department that has fired up and pissed off so many NBA fans.
An operatically dramatic one-man show, LeBron’s antics against the New York Knicks, while they happened a while ago, have stuck with me since. Not merely because it was LeBron James, the guy who, fairly or unfairly, often times finds the entirety of his 6’8″ frame crammed under a microscope for scientifically thorough examinations but because flopping has become an increasingly problematic part of today’s game.
Moments after the aforementioned charade was done playing out, and it’s air-time was roughly the length of Titanic, LeBron was completely fine. He stepped to the line and calmly, un-hurt-ly, nailed two free throws. Occasionally he’d remember to grimace on a trip down the court, but for the most part he was back to doing what he does best: filleting defenses with his insane strength and world-class athleticism.
Here’s a video of a few of his transgressions from the same game that had me more wound up than usual. In real-time? It looks like a fairly hard hit. It was definitely a foul. But watch when it slows down and we get a frame-by-frame analysis. (*Author’s note: also, LeBron weighs as much as a defensive end in the NFL, so he should be able to absorb a hard-pick without crumpling to the floor like a too-drunk bachelorette at her own party. Also, he weighs more than Tyson Chandler. Just saying.)
That the NBA has a problem with flopping isn’t exactly big news. People know about it. Players have reputations that can become inexorably linked to their on-court pantywaist-dom. It isn’t just the European players, with their alleged soccer-influenced ideas on contact, and it isn’t just futbol that needs to be ridiculed for its Lifetime Movie Network acting jobs.
Blake Griffin does it. LeBron does it, too. Two of the biggest stars in today’s game are drawing heat from around the league (*Author’s note: Frank Vogel, the head coach of the Indiana Pacers got fined $15k for pre-criticizing the refs for the bad job in fairly calling fouls on LeBron James. Not even Phil Jackson, he with the legendary penchant for racking up 5-digit fines, got fined for looking into a crystal ball and bombing on the refs. . .before the game. That’s how concerned Vogel was about the calls.) for their part in the ongoing epidemic.
So then what? Do we just grit our teeth, LBJ-in-faux-agony style and hope that the refs figure it out? David Stern has gone on record about his disdain for the floppagebut has claimed to have his hands tied. After mulling the problem, and potential solutions, here are a few ideas that I was able to come up with.
1. A Committee of 5 Flopping Judges Must Be Formed
The committee’s 5-member panel should have:
– Two ex-players (guys that know just how detrimental and inexcusable a bad flop is from first-hand experience)
– A former coach from the league and/or the collegiate ranks,
– A fan who is appointed by the owners from a selection pool chosen by online voting (campaigning is encouraged, i.e. “I’m the candidate that’s tough on flops!”)
– A hyper-judgmental tweenage girl, brainwashed from a young age to hate flopping, who will heap an inordinate amount of scorn and eye-rolling at any player she believes she is tougher than.
– An old man who firmly believes that basketball should be more like it was when they played the games in cages and somehow, through a geographical oddity, did in fact have to walk uphill both ways to school.
These judges would have gametape sent to them to analyze and decide which infractions violated the newly constructed flopping legislation. They will decide what types of punishment to dole out. Here are a few ideas.
2. Punishment, First-Time Offenders
– Written warning
– Verbal abuse
– A literal slap on the wrist
3. Punishment, 2nd Time Offenders
– Flopper must publish and leave up for no less than 3 days a grouping of 60 straight tweets stating, “I will not flop.” The 2012 version of writing on the chalkboard after class.
– Flopper must pay for a 2-minute Public Service Announcement that airs during the NBA Finals that features slow-motion, high-def replay of their flop and Charles Barkley ridiculing them the entire time.
– Flopper draws a random season ticket holder’s seat number from a hat and then must carry that person on their back for a TNT-televised suicide windsprint.
4. Punishment, 3rd Time Offenders
– Flopper must do a live, pre-game rendition of a James Blunt song to show the crowd how in-touch with his sensitive side he is.
– Suspension (*Author’s note: I seriously think they should do this.)
– Fines (*Author’s note: this too.)
– Flopper will be walked out, hand held, during 10 pre-game introductions by his Mommy and will then be introduced as such: “And now. . . starting as Joakim Noah’s Hairdresser. . .he is a worse actor than the cast of the remake of Beverly Hills 90210 and the only one who “fakes it” worse than he does on the court is his wife in the bedroom. . .”