On Sunday, Henry Abbott at TrueHoop ran an interesting piece on flopping in the NBA, including a strong argument from Carlos Morales of ESPN Deportes, who took issue with American complaints of foreign-born floppers.
Morales’ contention was that Europeans did not introduce flopping to the NBA, as has been so often alleged (including by yours truly), but that it has been present in the league as long as there has been an NBA. He even alluded to quotes from Red Auerbach as proof of the longevity of flopping.
Soon after, 82games.com put up their annual “Taking the Charge” column, which lists the league leaders in fouls drawn and committed, and, further, breaks those fouls down into specific categories. Among those categories is “offensive fouls drawn,” which is, obviously, the number of flops a certain player has taken during the course of a season.
While the list is informative, it is raw data, meaning that it does not take into consideration the number of minutes played. I thought it might be interesting to test Mr. Morales’ contention by seeing just how many foreign-born players there were at the top of the chart.
(Note: I only used the top 75 players ranked in offensive fouls drawn; beyond that, and you’re getting such minimal numbers that the information is not all that helpful, at least for this exercise’s purpose).
Top 10, Total Offensive Fouls Drawn:
1. Derek Fisher, 54
2. Andrew Bogut, 53
3. Mikki Moore, 51
4. Kyle Lowry, 47
5. Joel Przybilla, 47
6. Allen Iverson, 46
7. Jermaine O’Neal, 45
8. Mike Dunleavy, 42
9. Monta Ellis, 42
10. Luis Scola, 42
So, out of 10 players, three were foreign-born. To further expand the list, out of the top 20, six were from outside North America, 14 from the U.S.
But, as I said earlier, that doesn’t account for minutes played, so it’s a flawed ranking, right? A more accurate system would determine how many offensive fouls per 36 minutes played. Thankfully, we can access that information quite easily. With that in mind, here’s another list.
Top 10, Offensive Fouls Drawn/36 min.
1. Jarron Collins, 1.7
2. Jermaine O’Neal, 1.3
3. Leon Powe, 1.3
4. Joel Przybilla, 0.9
5. Anderson Varejao, 0.9
6. Derek Fisher, 0.9
7. Kyle Lowry, 0.8
8. Mikki Moore, 0.8
9. Luis Scola, 0.7
10. Fab Oberto, 0.7
Not too much difference, right? Now we’ve got four out of 10 foreigners, not a major change. Out of the top 20, though, we’ve added two more to the previous six, meaning that eight of the top 20 are from outside the U.S.
I’ll write that again, with emphasis: Out of the 20 players who drew the most offensive fouls in the NBA this season, eight were born outside the U.S. That’s 40%.
I don’t know the exact percentage of NBA players born outside the U.S. It could be 10%, it could be 20%. But I’m pretty darn sure it isn’t 40%. (If you know the number, please feel free to drop us a line in the comments).
So, what can we learn from all of this? One, this is pretty limited information, and it’s only based on one season. If I feel the urge, perhaps I’ll run the numbers for the last couple of seasons and see if there is any pattern.
Two, if you look at the players as a whole, it’s pretty clear that foreign-born players average more offensive fouls drawn than American-born players. In fact, the numbers are probably much higher than I found, simply because I failed to count players who drew very few offensive fouls. Including them would further skew the numbers in that direction.
Three, the previous discussions on white referees giving calls to white players (and black refs for black players) may come into play here, as most foreign-born players are white, and, therefore, they may receive beneficial calls from (predominantly white) officials. That’s a nut too hard for me to crack with my limited research skills (and budget; seriously, Paul, can’t you get me an assistant?).
Fourth, and, of the most interest to me, this seems to refute the argument of Carlos Morales that foreign players are no more likely to be floppers than American players. As I said before, more studying of these figures would give us some more information.
But the simple fact that nearly half of the top 20 floppers in the league were foreign-born seems to give at least some credence to the argument that Vlade Divac’ disciples are continuing his legacy.