King Flop: League Issues Warning to Lakers’ LeBron James on Violation

Lebron James on back

Getty Lebron James hits the deck

LeBron James’ burgeoning acting career took a bit of a hit Saturday.

The morning after a particularly egregious scene of theatrics Friday night, the NBA issued the Los Angeles Lakers headliner a warning for violating the league’s seldom enforced anti-flopping policy.

The play in question occurred with about 2:33 left in the first half of Los Angeles’ 115-105 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Jockeying for rebounding position on an Anthony Davis 3-point attempt, James fell backward as if shoved by Hercules himself, drawing a loose-ball foul on the Grizzlies’ Dillon Brooks and resulting in two foul shots. (James made them both.)

But the replay clearly showed that the 225-pound Brooks barely touched the hulking 250-pound James, who flung his arms into the air as he went down. The consummate thespian, James even stayed in character for a few seconds after the whistle, perhaps wanting to highlight his performance for the Hollywood Foreign Press, the body that annually votes on the Oscars.

Warning Also Given to Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma

Curiously, James’ teammate, forward Kyle Kuzma, also received a Saturday morning flop warning following Friday’s game. This one was for Kuzma’s performative attempt to draw a charge midway through the fourth quarter—spinning backward several feet before collapsing to the stage/floor. 

Like James, Kuzma’s Hollywood audition tape involved Brooks, but this time did not result in a foul for the Memphis forward.


There are penalties for repeated flopping, though not quite on par with the infamous Hollywood blacklists of the 1940s and 50s. At the very least, the warnings issued to James and Kuzma are significant in that they could signal an increased emphasis on flopping enforcement from the league officials.

Before Friday, the league had seen fit to only give out a grand total of five flop warnings all season. So to have two in one game (a 40% increase) is against the norm, to say the least.

Under league policy, after a warning, subsequent flopping violations result in fines ranging from $5,000 to $30,000. Those amounts are peanuts to most NBA players (certainly to James who is making $39.2 million in base salary alone this season, according to Spotrac) but in the extremely unlikely event a player receives six violations over the course of a season, a suspension could be levied.

Vlade Divac aka Sir Flops A Lot

Though often associated with shrieking displays of agonizing “pain” from soccer players, flopping is nothing new to basketball or the NBA. Indeed, from an early age players are told to “sell” fouls with flailing arms, guttural moans and of course dramatic crashes to the floor.

Some of the NBA’s greatest players were known for their flopping expertise, from Karl Malone to Reggie Miller. But perhaps the most well-known flopper was Kings and Lakers center Vlade Divac.

Divac, who is said to have pioneered the practice as we currently see it today, claims that he only starting doing so to counter the most dominant force of his playing days.

“Obviously my flopping came because of Shaq [O’Neal],” said Divac in 2015 to USA TODAY’s Sam Amick. “There’s no secret about it. That’s the only way I could try to draw attention to referees [about] what was going on.” Of course what was “going on” was the 325 pounds of beef that Shaq used against his otherwise helpless opponents game in and game out.

And though Divac employed his thespian skills to great success back in the day, even he agrees with the league’s current attempts to discourage the practice.

“After me, I think guys tried to overdo it. It takes [the] fun from the game, so I’m glad they changed the rules. I support it,” said Divac, who garnered nicknames like “The Serbian Flop” and “Sir Flops A Lot” over his 16-year NBA career.

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