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Has the NBA Turned Soft?

Flagrant fouls are the norm in today’s NBA.

AP Photo/Winslow Townson

AP Photo/Winslow Townson


Flagrant fouls are the norm in today’s NBA, as a tolerance for excessive contact has not been taken lightly. Furthermore, can we say that the NBA has appeared a little less appealing because of the refs’ overuse of a whistle, and mismanagement of the game?

I think so, ever since the malice in the palace in which Ron Artest (I WILL NOT CALL HIM BY THE NAME HE HAS NOW), was in the stands fighting with fans, not knowing the true significance it would have on the way the NBA let things play out on the floor from then on.

Even with the whole malice of the palace fiasco, the rule changes occurred way before that basically took away the physical aspects of the game. Since 1990, under the tutelage of former commissioner David Stern, the rules have been altered to give the offensive player an edge that makes the game high scoring, and possibly taking away the name of the game, and that is DEFENSE.

First it was the increase in flagrant fouls (1990), and fighting (1993). Although those two things do make the NBA a little more of a wrestling match, it possibly took away from the physical play, and even though the league was popular back then, most of its hardcore fans who watched to see who was going to get into a confrontation may have turned their back to the sport and went to watching the NFL honestly.

The implementation of the “five points” rule that called for automatic suspensions of players who amassed a certain number of flagrants (1993) was made so that these players wouldn’t receive their checks from game to game; it definitely put a hold on excessive physical play. The biggest rule change of all was the elimination of the hand check (1994), and then using the forearm to defend players facing the basket went away in 1997.

“The first year, they took my hand check away,” Rivers recalled. “The next year, they took our forearm away. And then, I retired. I was done. I was like, ‘I’ve got to move my feet? I quit. This is no fun anymore.”

“You can’t even touch a guy now,” says Charlotte coach Larry Brown. “The college game is much more physical than our game. I always tease Michael [Jordan], if he played today, he’d average 50

These rule changes did make the game no fun, and many players despised David Stern for doing such things. Stern’s reason for making these changes was bogus to say the least. He said that it would make the game more appealing, the only thing he said that had some validity to it was that it would give the offensive player little resistance to get to the basket, and the free throw line.

Fast forward 18 years later to 2015, and nothing is tolerated. Last night Los Angeles Lakers forward Carlos Boozer appeared to push 7’2 260 pound Indiana Pacers Roy Hibbert, Hibbert was furious about what occurred, and appeared to be charging at Boozer in rage. Boozer received a flagrant 1, and Hibbert received a technical foul on what appeared to be a simple push that was all in the name of the game, however with the rules in place it gives refs more leverage to make these absurd calls.

Kobe Bryant and Byron Scott both disagree with the way the league handles these physical plays as of now, and went into detail about their disgust and curiosity of what is a flagrant in today’s NBA in an article written by ESPN’s Baxter Holmes.

“I asked all three referees to explain to me what a flagrant foul is from now, because I have no clue. I really don’t,” Scott said.(ESPN)

“I haven’t looked at it, either. They told me it was unnecessary, basically, pushing him down, as far as what he did. I said, it’s still a push. But college ball is more aggressive than we are and much more physical than the NBA right now.” Scott said. (ESPN)

“I wonder what the league is coming to when that’s a flagrant foul. It’s a shame that has to be a flagrant,” Bryant said after scoring 20 points, including hitting the go-ahead shot with 12.4 seconds left. “It’s a foul. It’s a technical foul, maybe. That’s about it. But a flagrant foul? My goodness.”(ESPN)

Bryant added: “That might not have even been a foul when Byron was playing. The game has changed a lot.”(ESPN)

This is not just a couple of players who feel this way, some have kept quiet about, but others have been vocal about it as well.

So with the game being more of a friendly sport, and lack of player rivalries, the league is becoming less appealing to the common American fan, who yearns for the physical, in the trenches type of play because it makes you feel like you can kind of get into the game.

That appeal may have left, and possibly made the game soft.

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