The Floppies: The 10 most ridiculous dives of the 2014-15 NBA season
Welcome to the third rendition of The Floppies, SI.com's annual tradition of recognizing the very best in foul simulations. In case you missed them, be sure to check out the inaugural 2012-13 edition and 2013-14's second annual awards.
In his first full season as commissioner, Adam Silver elected to continue the league's anti-flop program without any major changes. First instituted by former commissioner David Stern in 2012, the program gives all players one free warning before the fines (starting at $5,000 and escalating with each subsequent violation) kick in.
Unless the last week of the regular season unexpectedly produces a run of flops, this year will go down as the program's lightest in terms of financial punishment. Through Tuesday's action, 27 players from 17 teams had been found guilty of committing a total of 30 flops. There have only been three repeat offenders, whose two flops each drew a total of just $15,000 in fines.
Here's how those numbers compare to the two previous seasons.
Needless to say, the anti-flop program hasn't been a major emphasis this season. Consider: Ex-Jazz center Enes Kanter was fined $25,000 for throwing his mouthpiece into the stands, Clippers forward Matt Barnes was fined $25,000 for kicking a water bottle into the stands and swearing at a fan, and Canadian rapper Drake was fined $25,000 for attempting to recruit Kevin Durant to the Raptors. All three each paid more in fines than all floppers combined in the NBA this season.
Even more damning: the 28 players who were selected or named as replacements to the 2015 All-Star Game have combined for exactly one flop warning (received by Russell Westbrook) and zero dollars worth of fines. Casual fans might regard Cavaliers forward LeBron James, Rockets guard James Harden and Clippers guard Chris Paul as three of the top floppers, but that trio hasn't drawn a single warning all season.
The initial public shaming that surrounded the announcement of the first round of floppers has mostly dissipated. Outside of headline-generating incidents in the playoffs, the program is basically toothless and irrelevant. While Stern seemed to delight in the punitive nature of his job, Silver's focus with regard to the officials seems to be on a desire for perceived transparency. For example, the NBA's officiating website has recently taken to publicly posting its reports from the final two minutes of close games. The public calling out of floppers does seem out of step, big picture, with Silver's attempts to build bridges between the league and its players, and one wonders whether the program will continue without changes going forward.
Without further ado, here are The Floppies, our flopping-centric year-end awards and a countdown of the top 10 flops of the season.
Floppers of the Year (Team): Hornets
Go ahead and tag owner Michael Jordan's players with a scarlet "F." Only two teams this season managed to have three different players on the floppers list: Charlotte (P.J. Hairston, Gerald Henderson and Gary Neal) and Cleveland (Kevin Love, Matthew Dellavedova and Anderson Varejao). The tiebreaker here was easy, as Hairston was one of just three players to receive a second flop violation and the mandatory $5,000 fine this season, giving the Hornets a league-leading four total flops this season.
Flopper of the Year (Individual): P.J. Hairston, Hornets
Simply put, Hairston lit the league on fire this season. Not only did he join Wizards center Marcin Gortat and Pacers guard C.J. Watson as the only repeat violators, Hairston was also the only member of the 2014 draft class to get dinged for flopping. The 22-year-old UNC product brought an instant impact to the league, falling all over the court like a veteran from day one.
What truly sets Hairston apart from Gortat, Watson and the rest of this year's floppers is his magnificent flop rate. Hairston managed to get two flop violations even though he has only played 624 minutes this season (entering Tuesday's action). For comparison, Hairston played fewer minutes than each of the 28 All-Star selections, including injured guys like Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant, and yet he managed to draw more flop warnings than all of them combined! Yes, Hairston drew more flops than all 28 All-Stars combined even though the All-Stars played 98.8 times more minutes than he did!
Here's a look:
This is too good. Let's imagine an alternate universe where the NBA dinged its All-Stars for flopping just as they have dinged Hairston, a rookie who entered the league with some red flags and has gone in and out of the rotation this season. Hypothetically, if the 28 All-Stars committed flops as often as Hairston, they would have combined for 197.6 flops this season.
Assuming each of the 28 All-Stars flopped the same number of times, that would have been roughly 7.1 flops per All-Star, costing each player at least $60,000 in fines. (We don't know exactly how much the players would get dinged for their sixth and seventh flops, because the program doesn't spell out a specific punishment and because no player has ever been found guilty of committing even three flops in the same season.) If the NBA All-Stars were assessed flops at the same rate as Hairston, they would have incurred, at minimum, a cumulative $1.68 million in fines. Anarchy!
The following are SI.com's top 10 flops of 2014-15. Only officially designated flops were eligible for consideration. The absurdity of each play was the chief criterion in developing these rankings, with bonus points given to arm and head flailing, spinning, overreacting to zero contact, and uniqueness.
10. Nene flops on Pau Gasol
Don't make the mistake of assuming this is a routine backwards "launch" flop from Nene, who is defending Bulls big man Pau Gasol one-on-one near the paint. Two elements make it stand out. First, the Wizards center expects us to believe that light contact from Gasol's chest, not a swinging elbow or even the ball, has the force to send him sprawling straight to the court. Watch the second angle enough times and you'll believe Gasol has a miniature Mike Tyson strapped to the front of his jersey. Second, there's the whole "hand caught in the cookie jar" vibe after no whistle is given. Nene lands on the court, glances at the official, realizes his pathetic attempt has not succeeded, and then reluctantly decides to get back up and contest Gasol's shot.
Careful viewers will notice that the home crowd barely reacts when Nene hits the deck. Failing to convince the homers is one of the surest signs of a poorly-executed dive.
9. Amir Johnson flops on Darrell Arthur
Amir Johnson gets high marks for creativity, as it's difficult to remember another player going down in quite this fashion. Really, the Raptors big man looks like a triple-jumper who gets decked by a 100 mile-per-hour crosswind. As he approaches the elbow to set a high screen, Johnson feels a little static from Nuggets center Darrell Arthur and leaps forward, flails his arms, and then lets both of his legs go so that he crashes hard to the court at an angle. Johnson hits the hardwood with enough force that his shoulders seem to bounce on contact.
8. Gerald Henderson flops on Amir Johnson
Johnson finds himself on the other end of this flop when he attempts to set a high screen on Hornets guard Gerald Henderson for teammate DeMar DeRozan. Henderson looks caught off guard by the pick from his blind side and decides to respond in drastic fashion. Rather than fighting over the top or spinning underneath, Henderson jolts forward, kicks his leg up so high that his foot is at head-level, and then thuds purposefully on his back. You've heard of "pulling the chair"? Henderson is trying to bait the officials into thinking his chair was pushed hard, cafeteria bully-style. It didn't work.
Sure, Johnson does seem to slide into the screen a bit and it's possible that Cody Zeller didn't call things out properly, but Henderson's decision is just outlandish. Be sure to watch the angle from the opposite basket, which shows both Henderson's midair pretzel antics and DeRozan's clean run to the rim for a dunk.
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7. Darren Collison flops on George Hill
Much like 360 dunks, spinning flops are almost always pleasing to the eyes. Here, Kings guard Darren Collison tries to pick up an offensive foul on former teammate and Pacers guard George Hill by hounding him in the backcourt. The referees allow an initial bump or two, leading Collison to play innocent by throwing his hands into the air. When Hill gives him a light bump to clear space, Collison seizes the opportunity to fling himself into a 180 degree spin, snapping his head back and flailing his arms along the way. He does a really nice job of making it look like he took an invisible uppercut to the chin.
The best part comes just before he hits the ground, as Collison can't help but look over at the official to see if his theatrics worked. They didn't, and he has no choice but to pull himself together with a push-up and get back on defense.
6. Mario Chalmers flops on Jerryd Bayless
It's déjà vu all over again. Heat guard Mario Chalmers kicked off last year's Floppies with a belly flop and he's back again this year with a sequel. As he defends Bucks guard Jerryd Bayless near midcourt, Chalmers attempts to squeeze himself in between Bayless and Giannis Antetokounmpo in hopes of drawing a foul. Antetokounmpo manages to barely avoid contact, and Bayless uses a light shove to clear some space so that he can set up Milwaukee's possession.
Chalmers wastes no time once he's touched, launching himself face-first to the court so that he slides nearly to the three-point line. He even keeps his hands up for maximum slip-and-slide distance. The full-body floor burn would go for nothing, though, as the officials resisted the temptation to call a foul on Bayless, who did his best to pretend nothing had happened as he called out the signals.
5. Russell Westbrook flops on Chris Paul
Even Russell Westbrook's flops are impressive feats of athleticism. Trying to sell a foul on a jumpshot is one of the most common flopping methods, but how often do you see a guy sky like the Jumpman logo before scissor-kicking his legs and scissor-slamming his arms while launching a three? Not often. The Thunder guard succeeded in baiting referee Joey Crawford into whistling the foul on Clippers guard Chris Paul, and you can almost hear Clippers coach Doc Rivers whipping out his cell phone on the sideline to call in his complaint to the league office. Remarkably, this was the only flop handed out to a 2015 All-Star all season long.
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4. Marreese Speights flops on Pau Gasol
The most underrated aspect of a good flop is the preparation. Warriors center Marreese Speights unfurled an awesome plan when faced with a common problem during a game against the Bulls. As Pau Gasol shoveled a pass to Jimmy Butler, setting up an open look at a corner three, Speights came to the conclusion that he wouldn't be able to reach Butler in time to properly contest the shot.
Speights' solution? Drive directly into Gasol, causing significant contact, before launching off Gasol in hopes of drawing a foul for an illegal screen. The odds of this working were not great, even though Speights went all in by snapping his head back, flailing his arms, and spinning 90 degrees as he fell to the court. Watch this clip enough times and it almost feels like Speights is using Gasol as a human trampoline. Gasol's shrugging shoulders and "What did I do?" response cap off an awesome all-around flop.
3. Roy Hibbert flops on Robin Lopez
There are flops that make you laugh and there are flops that make you recoil in disgust. Pacers center Roy Hibbert's dive on Blazers center Robin Lopez falls into the latter category. Lopez applied a light touch to the small of Hibbert's back as Indiana entered the ball to Hibbert near the paint. Rather than meet force with force to establish his position, the 7-foot-2 Hibbert fell forward awkwardly, careening so far that he rolled over on top of Wesley Matthews' right foot near the three-point line. Matthews went down immediately and was lucky to avoid serious injury. Meanwhile, Lopez was rightfully disgusted and complained about the call as soon as Hibbert hit the deck.
For some reason, perhaps because he was embarrassed or attempting to cover his tracks, Hibbert completed the sequence by chucking the basketball at Lopez, drawing a technical foul in the process. To recap, Hibbert knowingly misled the referees, exposed a fellow competitor at an unnecessary risk, lost his cool, and cost his team a point in five seconds flat. Brutal.
2. Glen Davis flops on Leandro Barbosa
In the same way that fumble return touchdowns are more exciting when defensive linemen are involved, flops are that much more entertaining when big guys hit the hardwood. Few NBA players are as big as Glen "Big Baby" Davis, so it's no surprise he finds himself near the top of this list for crash-landing on Warriors guard Leandro Barbosa.
Davis's adventure begins as he defends a high screen-and-roll, attempting to strip the ball as Barbosa tries to split the defense. As he reaches in, Davis takes contact from Barbosa's right arm, but rather than react naturally, he pauses before flinging himself backwards to the court, where he crashes hard, jiggles a bit, and holds his face to finish off his sell job. L.A.'s baby blue sleeved jerseys do him no favors here. As Davis flops, it's hard not to envision a coast guard helicopter trying to airlift a manatee, only to have the animal plummet back to Earth once the safety net gives way.
1. P.J. Hairston flops on Tony Parker
Number one. By a landslide. Nobody came close to giving Hornets rookie guard P.J. Hairston a run for his money at the top of this list.
The top flop of 2014-15 came when Hairston attempted to switch onto Spurs guard Tony Parker near the free-throw line. As Parker moved from right to left across the court, he nudged Hairston with his right shoulder. Hairston's epic response? To throw both of his arms straight up, spin 180 degrees (but only after thinking about it for a second), intentionally lose his balance, and crash back-first to the floor so gracelessly that he slid into Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who was standing on the sideline. Remember trying to skydive for the first time in Grand Theft Auto? Hairston demonstrates exactly that much body control. Splat.
All told, Hairston's flop appeared to cover nearly 20 feet, and it even caused the legendary Popovich to bend over and check on him after the crash landing. "Shameless" and "shameful" are the only two words that come to mind.