Taking charges was once hailed as a talent - something only the toughest players would do, the guys who would give up their body against a massive beast driving to the hoop. A charge would be called and teammates would rush to help their brave man to his feet, while the color commentator would gush with compliments. “Taking a charge is as important as hitting a big shot, more so because of the momentum swing it gives a team.”
Seldom, however, did it seem the superstar made this defensive move. There were reasons for it. As much as players like to hear their names and get patted on the back, the risk vs. reward for the charge was often too high, e.g. it could wind up as an injury, possibly even a career-ending one. It was said the guys who were taking charges were doing so because they didn’t have any (other) skill. Or it was a way for a washed-up veteran to hang on to a roster spot. Some guys who performed this defensive maneuver wound up with cult hero status. Dennis Rodman was the president of the club. On the flip side, Kobe Bryant called it “a chump move.”
The essence of the move was to try to get the referee to buy not only that there was contact, but that it was excessive. Even if the offensive player barely touched the defender. As things tend to work in the NBA, if this move worked for one side, why not the other? Soon fans were watching games in which a dribbler coming off a screen where the screener’s defender stepped out and the ball handler made like he was mugged. Or a guy taking to the hole and flails when a defender nudged him.
Like anything else, at first, it was kind of slick; then it became annoying; finally the act got tired. The once proud move became known as “flopping.” Whether done at the offensive or defensive end of the floor. Everybody started to complain about it and by everybody, we mean coaches (always the first to complain - something about gaining/losing an advantage), players, referees, fans, even play-by-play men and color commentators. The bitchin’ got all the way to the commissioner’s office and one thing David Stern doesn’t care for is negative publicity. Truth be told, he nor his advisers didn’t care for flopping either.
Public opinion got so bad the league did what it seems to do best. It decided to legislate against it. Call it the “anti-flopping” rule. What happens when rules are broken by NBA players and coaches? Warnings, fines and suspensions, those are what. While it seems like a means of cutting down, if not eliminating the problem, it becomes another way for players to lose money. First-time offenders get a warning, second-time is a $5K fine, naturally increasing to possible suspension on number six.
So what happens when there’s a disagreement between players and the league? Don’t tell me another strike. No, that’s just the last resort and those involved in the last one claim it will be just that - the last one. Prior to any action (I imagine including the kind that takes place on the floor), the players’ union needs to get involved. It is currently claiming that implementing the rule would be tantamount to an unfair labor practice. Particularly when it involves an unclear rule. The players’ union allege the whole problem is an overreaction by the commish’s office. Which means they’re upset they weren’t contacted first before their league made the rule. Someone needs to explain to these millionaires (and, contrary to the football players who say only a few of them are that highly paid, basketballers really are all millionaires) how being an employee works. OK, only 95% of them.
Imagine if the players had involvement on this decision? I wonder who the player reps would be? Shane Battier? Anderson Varejeo? Manu Ginobli? Derek Fisher? Paul Pierce? Maybe Kobe could argue for both sides. It should be stated for the record:
“Be careful what you wish for; you may just get it.”