Irony, thy name is Divac. Former Kings, Lakers and Hornets center Vlade Divac has long been thought of as the progenitor of flopping, which roils up NBA fans and bloggers until they’re foaming at the mouth with incredulity. In a recent interview with Pro Basketball Talk’s Kurt Helin at the adidas Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy, Divac blamed Shaq for the ongoing issue.
Here’s Divac explaining to Helin why Shaq is to blame:
Divac was better than anyone during his era at successfully pulling off these kinds of acting jobs, but he’s not necessarily proud of it. He’s in favor of the league trying to eliminate it from the game, but said his resorting to that strategy was simply done out of necessity.
“Whenever you overdo something, it’s time to stop it,” Divac told NBCSports.com. “So I think it’s a great decision by the NBA. But everyone is saying that’s my rule; that’s not my rule. That’s Shaq’s rule.”
Wait, you think Shaq started it?
“No, I started it because of Shaq, because they didn’t want to call fouls,” Divac said. “So that’s not my rule, that’s Shaq’s rule.”
In case you’re not old enough to remember some of the rumbles Divac’s Kings team and Shaq’s Lakers participated in during the early part of the millennium, Grantland’s estimable long-form journalist, Jonathan Abrams, compiled an epic oral history of their pseudo-rivalry culminating in the 2002 Western Conference Final. We write pseudo because the Kings never actually beat them in the playoffs.
In that series, the Kings couldn’t do a thing with Shaq at his peak, so Divac started overreacting to the slight nudges that would probably put most laypeople in the hospital.
It’s fascinating, and a tad hypocritical, Divac — long considered the apogee of flopping excess — is in favor of the league’s anti-flopping policy.
The vast majority of fans, writers and analysts believe the current policy lacks the oomph needed to eliminate flopping completely. Witness last night’s flop by Dwyane Wade to sell some breezy contact from Manu Ginobili, or Tim Duncan‘s ghost flinch on a LeBron James swipe that barely nicked the ball — let alone Duncan. In both cases a foul was called without a real foul taking place.
For me, it’s just a part of the game. You hope the refs catch it, and if they don’t, you hope it’s not an integral part of the outcome. Regardless of how a flop transpires, there’s a fine line between a flop and a foul, and more people should understand the complexity.
On a personal level, I detest flopping only a little more than the self-righteous fans who sound off on Twitter like the players who flop — whether consciously or subconsciously — are messing with the integrity of the game. The people who argue so vehemently against flopping consider themselves morally superior because they lack the ability to empathize with doing whatever it takes to get the job done mentality. People cut corners in America’s capitalist environment all the time, but those same anti-flopping proponents just shrug and grumble about the exigencies of a free market.
Also, if LeBron’s meaty paw was swiping near a fan’s face, you can bet they’d flinch too, even if television viewers would likewise scream “FLOP” while furiously lambasting whomever committed the supposed infraction on Twitter.
I hate flopping — whether Divac was the harbinger of the (supposedly) recent trend, or Shaq brought it about by making it impossible for Divac to defend him without overreacting. Regardless, I dislike the holier-than-thou way people react to flopping almost as much as flopping itself.
Divac, one of the smartest players ever, and certainly one of the best passing big men in NBA history, has earned the right to complain about flopping, even if it’s ironic. The fans who get so angry on their couches at night as they watch the best athletes in the world compete, have not.
What do you think?
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