Why We Hate Duke: Flopping

Here is a basketball definition you should learn:

Art. 4. To establish an initial legal guarding position on the player with the ball:
a. The guard shall have both feet touching the playing court. When
the guard jumps into position initially, both feet must return to the playing court after the jump, for the guard to attain a guarding position.
b. The guard’s torso shall face the opponent.

c. No time and distance shall be required.

d. When the opponent with the ball is airborne, the guard shall have attained legal position before the opponent left the playing court.

If a defending player establishes legal guarding position as defined in the above excerpt from the 2009 NCAA Basketball Rulebook, then an opposing player who has the ball and runs into that defender will be whistled for an offensive foul – a charge. The reason I cannot stand Duke basketball is their persistence in drawing such charge calls and their culture of shameless flopping that has resulted.

In a game where ten big guys are moving around quickly and competitively in a tight space, rules are in place to provide a safe environment for the players. However, leave it to the doofus troop over in Durham to exploit something perfectly legitimate for their own twisted purposes. It is a situation that has become all-too-familiar for many college hoops fans: talented player from Team A makes an athletic move to the basket while scrubby acne-riddled player from Duke – sensing that there is no way he could block the talented player’s shot – jumps into the path of the driving player, then dives awkwardly backwards after little-to-no contact from Team A’s player. The referee, eager to appease Coach Kay (Hay, hayyy!), whistles the player from Team A with an offensive foul. Bingo. This is Duke basketball defense.

Except for Sheldon Williams, Duke has not had a dynamic shot-blocker in the recent era. Coach Kay (Hay, hayyy!) tends to recruit more small jump-shooters than big men, and the tall guys he does land often turn out to be busts (Shavlik Randolph, Brian Zoubek) or leave early (Josh McRoberts, Loul Deng). Because of this lack of inside defensive strength, Coach Kay (Hay, hayyy!) has made it a point to teach his players to flop. By drawing charge calls, Duke can neutralize the ability of the other team to score in the post without having to actually compete with those more talented players. For every charge called, there are two points the opposing team fails to receive, the resulting free-throw that would be awarded had the blocking foul been called, and the charging player is 1/5 of the way closer to disqualification. One can see how this is much easier and more effective than spending time nurturing true competitive big-man talent.

This technique is rotten, and it destroys the beauty of college basketball. People watch basketball passionately because we want to see gifted athletes play hard and find creative ways to score. People do not watch basketball to see how deftly a defender can take advantage of another player and their momentum. Competitive integrity is seriously compromised when, instead of playing tough defense, players continuously dive and act melodramatically in order to penalize others who are driving hard for the basket. I submit two videos as evidence of Duke’s insistence on flopping, even when there is no contact to be penalized.

The first video shows the master flopper, Greg Paulus, taking a charge that doesn’t exist. He sets up, braces for impact, then…TIMBER! No contact whatsoever, but his Duke training kicks in and he flops right over.

The second video shows a truly Duke bastardization of their own rule misinterpretation. In a game at the Smith Center, J.J. Redick puts up a shot against Bobby Frasor, then – in an attempt to draw a foul call – writhes in mid-air as if shot in the ass with a dart and collapses to the floor. In both cases, the referees did not reward Duke for their cheap tricks, and the true athletes continued playing men’s basketball.

Another horrific aspect of this tendency towards disingenuous defense is the threat to players’ safety. When a six-foot-something, two-hundred-pound player is cutting quickly to the basket, diving in and undercutting his momentum adds a chance of injury that is entirely unnecessary. It is one thing to stay bravely in defensive position when a driving player is out of control and to take the charge that is justly rewarded. However, attempting to jump into defensive position and either initiating contact or faking such contact is unsportsmanlike, unsafe, and undermines the purpose of the game.

In closing, here is a quote from four-time NBA All-Star and UNC alumn, Rasheed Wallace. The statement is from November 2009, after a game in which Wallace took exception to the way Toronto Raptors player Hedo Turkoglu continuously flopped, trying to draw charges. I completely agree with ‘Sheed’s attitude towards flopping, which can undoubtedly be traced back to his days competing against such nonsense at Duke:

“Flopping shouldn’t get you nowhere. He acts like I shot him. That’s not basketball, man. That’s not defense. That’s garbage, what it is.” – Rasheed Wallace