Rational Incentives for Flopping

June 3rd, 2013

Recently, the NBA instituted a new policy where the league would fine plays after the game for “flopping,” defined loosely as intentionally exaggerating contact in hopes of drawing a foul. The penalty is a $5,000 fine after the game.

This penalty does not seem like enough of a deterrent. If a key foul call late in the game changes the outcome–perhaps by causing a player to foul out, or by generating free throws–it seems totally worth it.

Lebron James seems to agree.

LeBron James┬ávehemently denies he’s a flopper but openly recognizes it as an effective strategy.

“Some guys have been doing it for years, just trying to get an advantage,” James said Monday in the lead-up to Tuesday’s Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. “Any way you can get an advantage over the opponent to help your team win, so be it.”

Unless the punishment was something horrible, like suspension, it seems that players have every incentive to do it.

Still, fines have not seemed to stem the tide. No Heat players were officially warned or fined for flopping during the regular season or in the playoffs.

“It happens,” Wade said. “We would have no NBA possibly if they got rid of all the flopping.”