Is LeBron James Fouled Too Hard, Or Is He Flopping?

LeBron James, Josh Smith

LeBron James, Josh Smith (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

A few sites have picked up on a Vine video pretty clearly showing LeBron James embellishing some contact two times in one sequence during the Heat’s win over the Pistons on Monday night. But Heat coach Erik Spoelstra tells the Sun-Sentinel LeBron is getting roughed up because he’s big and strong enough to handle fouls that are more similar to tackles. So which is it, or is LeBron inflating some contact while also being able to handle harder tackle-fouls?

Here’s the Vine of LeBron’s supposed double-flop while battling Greg Monroe in the post on Monday, via FTW:


Now it’s obvious LeBron is getting hit by Monroe here, but it appears to be standard muscling for position on the block, a hot piece of real estate that has led to a lot of physical altercations. LeBron gets dinged on the chin, but he’s tarting it up a bit to hopefully draw an offensive foul on Monroe.

The NBA defines flopping thusly:

“Flopping” is defined as any physical act that appears to have been intended to cause the referees to call a foul on another player. The primary factor in determining whether a player committed a flop is whether his physical reaction to contact with another player is inconsistent with what would reasonably be expected given the force or direction of the contact.

Under that strict definition of the rule, LeBron might get a flop warning today by the league office. He’s clearly trying to sell the foul and his reaction is “inconsistent” with the contact.

But ‘Bron’s coach is more concerned with the pounding he goes through because of his hulking 6-8, 250-pound frame. Spoelstra spoke about the issue to Ira Winderman at the Sun-Sentinel:

“If it’s somebody else without the strength and power and you’re going up and somebody’s wrapping you up with two hands over your shoulders to keep you from going, that’s a tackle, by definition.”

“It’s happening quite a bit,” Spoelstra said. “We don’t officially complain about it. But those are physical plays and there’s not an intent, from our view, to make a basketball play on the ball.”


In Spoelstra’s view, James is being penalized for being able to power through such fouls.

“And that’s because of his strength,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it’s easy to officiate. But when it’s two hands over the top and it’s a tomahawk and results in something very similar to a tackle, that seems over the top.”

Obviously, we need to take into account the messenger. Spoelstra is LeBron’s coach, and it’s long been the practice of NBA coaches to hint at things through the media to place a kernel of an idea in a ref’s head and the public’s at large. But is he sort of right, too?

Click the next page to see an example of what Spoelstra is talking about…

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