Basketball players, beware! The Flopbuster is coming
What is the Flopbuster X1 5000, you ask? It’s the device used by biomechanics experts at Southern Methodist University to study how basketball players attempt to fool referees into calling fouls by unnecessarily falling to the ground.
That practice is called flopping, and it’s a hotly debated topic among basketball fans. Instead of using athletic skill to win a game, floppers use their thespian skills to feign contact and perhaps use dramatic arm gestures or facial expressions. These theatrics trick referees into calling fouls. Some players may even fake an injury to ensure referees believe illegal contact with another player has occurred.
The NBA imposes fines after games on players who are found to be guilty of flopping. Miami Heat superstar LeBron James has gone so far as to advocate the practice: “Any way you can get an advantage over the opponent to help your team win, so be it,” he told reporters in May.
However, Mark Cuban, the eccentric owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and others want flopping banned. Cuban paid $100,000 to researchers at SMU to conduct an 18-month study on flopping, with results expected by August 2014. Cuban could then submit the results to NBA officials so they could analyze data and make changes in how referees call games.
Enter the Flopbuster, a lovingly named push-bar device that will measure the amount of force during test collisions. Peter Weyand, head of SMU’s six-member research team, said “5,000” is a reference to the maximum level of Newtons the device can handle.
It’s the first time a study like this has been attempted. Researchers will look at human musculature. They’ll examine how players can tense up their bodies to avoid falling down, versus how players can loosen up so they can easily flop toward the ground. The trials will be video-recorded. Will the data lead to the end of flopping? “Oh, I’m not going on the record saying that,” said Weyand, who grew up a Boston Celtics fan.
“As we looked into it, the scientific opportunity just to learn basic information was pretty significant,” he added. “We’re structuring and studying the data application to find out how that can be useful for the NBA.”
Hey, is that a flop? LeBron James has been known to defend the practice.