Is ‘Flopping’ a Form of Cheating in Basketball?

Posted on June 6, 2012 by

Yesterday, while watching game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals I witnessed a flop in the 4th quarter by Boston Celtics player Ray Allen. Watching him flop (by flop I am referring to acting as if a player was fouled when in fact the player wasn’t in an attempt to convince the refs that he was fouled by a nearby player) made me consider if we should look at such acts as cheating. So, in this brief post, I’ll consider the concept of cheating and look at the case of flopping to see if it should be considered a form of cheating in sports and whether we should blame the flopper for cheating when it occurs.

Cheating usually refers to an immoral way of achieving a goal. It is generally used for the breaking of rules to gain advantage in a competitive situation. Some examples of cheating in the context of sports can be; the use of certain equipment that has been banned (a corked bat in baseball), the use of banned substances (steroids to gain an advantage), and adding a point to the scoreboard when it hasn’t been properly earned (obvious cheating).

In all cases of cheating, deception is at play. In the academic realm cheating is usually outlined by putting work forth as if it was your own. For instance, using a cheat sheet in order to give answers that were meant to be memorized (fill in other ways one can cheat with your favorite method here ______). It seems that the deception that occurs is part of the cheating process in general, but is deception by itself a form of cheating itself? I can be but it need not be.

I think it’s context sensitive – to a degree. Certain games (poker comes to mind),  and certain aspects of many professional sports require deception in order to play and play well. For instance, a change-up or a curve ball in baseball,  a fake pass or a sneaky blitz package in football. Deception is at play in these sorts of cases but in a very different way than it is when it’s used in cheating. In the case of flopping, you are indirectly accusing the opposite team of committing an infraction that they did not commit. Admittedly, they’ll be some fringe cases where the actor did in fact think he was fouled and exaggerated his reaction to it by flopping, this is a tricky case.

All things considered, I do think that flopping is a form of cheating in basketball. You’re attempting to gain an advantage by deceiving the referees into thinking you were fouled. This seems like cheating to me. This leads me to another question; should we blame the player flopping for his actions? Are we justified in being mad and directing our reactive attitudes toward a player who flops to gain an advantage for his team? I think we are justified in blaming him for cheating and I think the governing body of the NBA should consider a course of action in order to deal with this problem. It affects the refs ability to properly call a game and it often affects the outcome of the game, which, seems unfair. The game should be determined by the team that played the game the best, not by the team that played sub-par but their acting was superb. I’d be curious to read any thoughts you might have on the matter.