A Cuban-owned company, Radical Hoops Ltd., awarded more than $100,000 in grant money to SMU’s biomechanics department to research the science of flopping.
Flopping, as any basketball or soccer fan knows, is the art of faking a collision in order to draw a foul on an opponent.
Flopping has become so rampant that this season the NBA instituted fines for players who engage in it. A total of 24 violations of the no-flopping policy were recorded during the 2012-13 regular season. Fourteen players received warnings and five more were fined for $5,000 for breaking the rule twice.
Of course, to the naked eye, one man’s flop is another man’s hard foul. To make flopping violations less of a judgment call, Cuban is putting his money toward technology that can determine whether some players deserve acting awards.
“The issues of collisional forces, balance and control in these types of athletic settings are largely uninvestigated,” said SMU biomechanics expert Peter G. Weyand, who will spearhead the 18-month project.
“There has been a lot of research into balance and falls in the elderly, but relatively little on active adults and athletes.”
Weyand, a physiologist and biomechanist, has some experience in the jock world. He was a lead investigator on the scientific team that worked on double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius’ appeal of his Olympic ban.
Weyand’s current challenge is to determine whether able-bodied players are being honest when they appear to be hit by freight trains on the way to the basket. A key component of the research is determining how much force is required to actually knock someone off balance.
Using video and motion-capture techniques, the research could lead to computers scanning replays of alleged flops to determine if a foul or an Emmy should be awarded.
“It may be possible to enhance video reviews by adding a scientific element,” Weyand said. “But we won’t know this until we have the data from this study in hand.”
Cuban’s research grant could lead to a breakthrough in NBA officiating. But pity the poor graduate student test subjects who have to be repeatedly steamrolled by NBA power forwards to get the research data.