Kobe Bryant Leads the Charge Against Charging, and Flopping, in the NBA

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Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, right, keeps the ball from Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, left, in the third quarter of Game 1 in the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs, in Oklahoma City, Monday, May 14, 2012. Oklahoma City won 119-90. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

It’s a common sight for basketball players to tumble backwards to the hardwood, flopping forcefully to the ground in an effort to fool the refs and draw a charge. It’s a classic “gotcha” play. The practice has been under fire for years in the NBA, most recently, commissioner David Stern railed against it. “It’s not a legitimate play in my judgment,” Stern said Sunday. “I recognize if there’s contact [you] move a little bit, but some of this is acting. We should give out Oscars rather than MVP trophies.”

We may not see such an awards ceremony anytime soon, but flopping has its most outspoken opponent yet: Kobe Bryant. The Lakers’ guard sounded off about the underhanded practice Tuesday. “There’s a difference [between taking a charge and flopping]. We all know what flopping is when we see it,” Bryant said. “The stuff that you see is where guys aren’t really getting hit at all and are just flailing around like a fish out of water. That’s kind of like, where are your balls at?”

You could ask Kobe the same thing; he doesn’t even take charges, because he’s afraid of getting hurt. He cites some of his legendary predecessors who showed the side effects of being thrown to the floor game after game. The bruised and beaten backsides of Scottie Pippen and Larry Bird made the decision easy for him to lay off the charging fouls. “I figured that [stuff] out at an early age,” Bryant told reporters Tuesday. Except he used another word that started with “s” – and his rather colorful language indicates he’s certainly not messing around. “I’ve seen Michael [Jordan] not take one … charge and he’s healthy his whole career,” he said.

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The 33-year-old Bryant estimated that he’s taken just one charge over the past two seasons, and it wasn’t even by design. “I couldn’t get out of the way,” he joked. “I don’t take charges, Metta [World Peace] doesn’t take charges. Steve [Blake] will take a charge every now and then, but most everybody else just stands up and plays.”

But is staying on their feet creating hurdles for the team? Indeed, Lakers coach Mike Brown might hope Bryant changes his mind about charges. Bryant and the Lakers took a trouncing Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, in the first game of the Western Conference semifinals, where they lost 119-90. Even more glaring, though, is that the Lakers forced only four turnovers against a team averaged of 16.4 turnovers per game in the regular season – tops in the NBA.Why not take a few charges to create more turnovers?

Don’t look for Bryant to start taking offensive fouls.  He’s stubborn, and you can’t argue with the results of his charge-free philosophy: five NBA championships, and a long and legendary career. Kobe does what Kobe wants to do. Plus, if Kobe isn’t trying to take a charge, at least he can’t flop. And less flopping is always a good thing.

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