WSJ: Physics of Flopping — Cuban Backs a Study

WSJ Cuban flopping 400x300

Journalist Ben Cohen with The Wall Street Journal 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, “Physics of Flopping: Cuban Backs a Study,” 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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EXCERPT:
By Ben Cohen
The Wall Street Journal

A big name in the NBA is backing a team of biomechanics researchers interested in a modern sports phenomenon: flopping.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban not only inspired the Southern Methodist University project, which was announced Friday, but also invested more than $100,000 in what is thought to be the first study of its kind. Cuban said he was curious about the physics of flopping—how and why a 250-pound player, for example, crashes when he runs into someone under 200 pounds.

“If you look at a high-contact sport like football, you see few pancakes, where guys end up on their behinds,” Cuban wrote in an email. “Yet in our sport, guys end up on their backsides all the time.”

SMU biomechanics professor Peter Weyand expects the study will combine video techniques with collisions measuring force. One tricky part is the lack of prior work in the field of flopology. “A lot of scientific experiments follow on the heels of prior experiments,” he said. “This is a novel scientific venture.”

Cuban said the NBA, which introduced fines for floppers before this season, can benefit from “a template that defines some basic guidelines on what levels of force, speed and size” contribute to genuine falls. The goal is to “take out guessing and reduce the amount of judgment involved.”

The study also could have personal benefits for the outspoken Cuban. “If we get great data we can learn from, it will save me a ton of money in fines,” he wrote with a smiley face.

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

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