Journalist Eric Nicholson with the Dallas Observer covered the research of SMU biomechanics expert Peter G. Weyand, who is teaming with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to investigate the forces involved in basketball collisions and the possibility of estimating “flopping” forces from video data.

The coverage, “Mark Cuban and SMU Are Teaming Up for an Important Scientific Study of NBA Flopping,” was posted June 7.

Flopping is a player’s deliberate act of falling, or recoiling unnecessarily from a nearby opponent, to deceive game officials. Athletes engage in dramatic flopping to create the illusion of illegal contact, hoping to bait officials into calling undeserved fouls on opponents.

The phenomenon is considered a widespread problem in professional basketball and soccer. To discourage the practice, the National Basketball Association in 2012 began a system of escalating fines against NBA players suspected of flopping, including during the playoffs, “NBA announces anti-flopping rules for playoffs.”

The Cuban-owned company Radical Hoops Ltd. awarded a grant of more than $100,000 to fund the 18-month research study at SMU.

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Eric Nicholson
Dallas Observer

Taking a charge in basketball is an art, and it has been for a long time. A not-insignificant portion of high school basketball practices — at least as of a decade ago — are dedicated to training players on coming to an abrupt stop, setting one’s feet just so, and falling as if they’ve been clothes-lined by a freight train. Taking a charge at the right moment can turn a game.

Charges used to be much rarer than they are today, and it’s fairly widely acknowledged that the pendulum has swung too far in favor of the defensive player, who can draw a whistle by flailing wildly to the ground at the lightest touch.

The NBA has been cracking down on flopping this season, and Commissioner David Stern hopes to increase the penalties against players who do so. The $5,000 fine recently laid on LeBron James isn’t much of a disincentive for someone making $33 million per year.

Complicating matters is the fact that it isn’t always easy to discern who’s faking it and who’s really getting knocked on their ass. To help referees and league officials figure that out, SMU announced today that Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is chipping in $100,000 to fund an 18-month academic study on the biomechanics of flopping.

“The issues of collisional forces, balance and control in these types of athletic settings are largely uninvestigated,” SMU biomechanics expert Peter G. Weyand says in a press release. “There has been a lot of research into balance and falls in the elderly, but relatively little on active adults and athletes.”

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