The Physics Behind the Flop

by Rachel Baker on December 13, 2013

Students at Southern Methodist University are working on figuring out the physics of the flop to help officials tell the difference between a flop and a foul just by looking at video.

Last summer, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban gave Southern Methodist University more than $100,000 to try to answer that question scientifically. On Thursday, SMU biomechanics expert Peter Weyand demonstrated the early stages of his flopping research to a small group of journalists.

Flopping is when an athlete fakes a fall to trick referees into calling a foul on an opponent. The behavior is prevalent in sports such as basketball and soccer.

It’s an especially sore point with fans.

“In regular life, people tend to dislike dishonest people, and the same thing goes for basketball,” said Jeff Lenchiner, editor of the NBA news site “It’s dishonesty expressed physically, and it’s considered an insult to the game.”

In one compilation of flops posted to YouTube involving Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs, an outraged spectator calls the behavior “a disease” and a mark of cowardice, “bad sportsmanship and horrible acting.”

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