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NBA Flopping versus World Cup Diving

Every four years the world comes together to celebrate flopping. In the NBA we do it every season. Hey, the World Cup is on, you know. Topicality!

How do you say "Joey Crawford is my idol in Italian?"
How do you say "Joey Crawford is my idol in Italian?"
Ian Walton

This is off the cuff, and if you want to correct me, or my thinking below, go ahead, I'm totally open sourcing this.  This is because I'm just an innovating, cross-pollinating thought-leading idea generator.  I want all of you to take this viral into our idea communitiy and creatively empower it on a game changing vector.  It is a passion project for me, obviously.

Guess what? Even as I write this a Brazilian pretending to be a Spaniard has, upon a bit of contact, flung himself towards the ground, garnering a Soccer Point for Spain.  Now Spain leads 1-0.  That might turn out to be the margin of victory. Wait no, not now.  But it still might.  Maybe not!  Goal for Holland! Another real goal for the Dutch! And another! And another!  And another!

Lately, with the world suffering from a nasty case of Intestinal Fifa Fever, I've heard a lot of stuff tossed around.  Most of it along the lines of:

The NBA with its flopping is just like soccer! No it is worse!  It's a league of floppers!  James Harden is not a basketball player, he's the devil himself!  Arrrgh!  What's it all coming to?  We are all doomed!  The NBA is basically the very worst aspects of the Italian, Argentine and Brazilian national teams!  Wait, that describes the Spurs!

Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

Upon these arguments and whines, I want to shine a spotlight.

I contend that soccer flopping is generally orders of magnitude worse than NBA flopping.  Not necessarily worse in terms of histrionics, and testicle shrinkage (covered here earlier in the season) and generally unforgivable unmanly behavior in a contest presumably amongst men.  No as loathsome as that may be, and it is, (and I know my USMNT isn't immune), its nothing much besides the dive in the penalty area that decides a match.

From what I can tell, (with a scant few minutes of googling I wouldn't swear by) of soccer matches that are won (not drawn) something like 55% are won by one goal.  Moreover, games in which 0-2 goals are scored in total in soccer occur roughly 73% of the time in the major European leagues.  So not only are there likely to be two or fewer goals in a match, the margin of victory in any game is likely to be one goal.

That means that a penalty shot flop in soccer is likely to decide a match.

Can we say the same of basketball flopping?  Probably not, for several reasons that I can't immediately back up because my time is limited right now.  I'll leave it in the form of questions.  For our purposes let's define "flop" as points as that could not have occurred without freethrows on a clear non foul.

How many of those would we see a game on average per team? 4? 6?  8?  Remember, we're assuming that the team would not have scored normally,  Also, it's only points off flops, not non-shooting fouls.

What's the difference in total flop points between the two teams? 0?  2?  4? We need to know the total of flop points that don't cancel one another out off wrong calls and FTs.

If its two, it basically doesn't decide many games, as the average margin of victory in the NBA is about 3.6 points, year to year.  If its 4 or more, then the "flop point" differential may in fact decide games, on average.

Instead of looking at margin of victory alone, also consider a delta of 2 "flop points scored" in games where on average (roughly) 100 points are scored.  It's only 2% of points scored, whereas in soccer one penalty goal is likely to be 50% or more of points scored.  So from that standpoint you'd have to imagine a 50 freethrow flop.

So just off the back of the envelope, no, NBA flopping isn't commensurate.

One because I think it tends to even out in a given game, or season, if not in specific playoff series (which is entirely another issue).

Two because the delta between "flop points" represents a very small fraction (2%) of total points scored.

Three because its unlikely to get an NBA player with 6 total fouls sent off the game and even if that happens there's always a substitute possible.  Four

Four, to be decisive the delta of "flop points" needs to be over 4 to overcome average victory margin.

Basically an NBA flop, while very annoying, isn't the devastating game-changing, match winning horror a soccer penalty kick flop is.


U-S-A!  U-S-A!

Flop if you need to!

Flop when you can!

We'll still love you!

You'll still be a man!