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Defining Moments of the NBA Season: A Flop in Unison

Looking back at the time when James Harden refused to be out-flopped by Patrick Beverley

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Let’s say we did not yet know turtles existed. And then, for some reason, I discovered them. I am a hero. I did it. I discovered turtles. I named them turtles. That was my idea. Everyone wants to talk to me and have sex with me. These beasts were unknown to mankind and then I was rollerblading along one day and came across a bale of them. Definitely, initially, I would be freaked out. I would think they were weird. It would confuse me to look at them. Why the shell? What’s up with the shell? The designs on them seem cool, but are you storing something inside there that could destroy me? But then, as I stared at the creatures more and thought about all the creatures and critters that I know of that exist in the world, their whole look would begin to make complete sense to me. It’s like a lizard thing with a shell on its back. I get it. A big snail with legs. After a while I’m like, it would be weird if this thing didn’t exist. What looked foreign in the beginning now seems inevitable. That feeling of seeing something that at first seems strange and then seems obvious, that’s how I feel about James Harden and Patrick Beverley flopping in unison.

Initially, this is strange. It looks weird. Why would either of them do any of this? Obviously it’s to draw a foul, but no foul is worth this. It certainly doesn’t look like very much fun. I’m not running out to the driveway to go try it, you know what I mean? They’re all alone at the top of the key. The ball is somewhere else. I don’t know Harden to be an intense, thoughtful cutter. He hasn’t historically hung his hat on moving when he’s off the ball. Beverley, I’m not even sure. Honestly, and I don’t use this word—this is poppycock. Pure, unfiltered poppycock. But of course it happened. As certain as death, when Harden and Beverley are matched up, they’ll get tangled. And of course, of course, of course they would both wind up on the ground, looking for a ref, asking for a call. I’ve never seen two drunk birds try to hug, but yeah. Very strong are-you-going-to-send-him-to-his-room-or-not energy from both of them here.

Personally, I don’t fall a lot. I don’t fall on the floor. I don’t fall in the shower. I can’t remember the last time I fell down the stairs. I am great at walking and standing. On multiple occasions I’ve been told those are actually two of my three strongest attributes as a person, the other one being that I’m good at checkers. Nine times out of 10, when you meet me, I will be standing up with my feet on the ground. Not trying to brag, those are just the facts. Even still, it is important to say: There can be beauty in the short, slow fall. The faller has the time to show they recognize what’s going on and maybe at first they’re kind of trying to stop it from happening, but they’re also really just sort of along for whatever ride gravity decides to give them. They let go. They know the fall won’t hurt. It’s just inconvenient, maybe a little embarrassing. The faux, forced falls by these two men contain no beauty. There’s no style, no grace, no creativity. The degree of difficulty is essentially zero. These falls are ugly. One of them should’ve done a flip at the end or something. That would’ve been awesome.

Which player in the league do refs hate officiating the most? Include everything. Include his personality. Include his temperament. Include his game. I don’t mean the player that’s toughest to officiate à la prime Shaq. I mean the player who makes refs roll their eyes hardest. The player they see coming up on their schedule and they’re like, “Man, I don’t want to deal with this dude right now.” Harden and Beverley both have to be high on that list. I’d imagine Draymond Green is way up there. I’d imagine Russell Westbrook is way up there. I’d imagine Chris Paul is way up there. Harden used to be lyrical. Now his game just feels, what, not the most fun I ever had? He’s a singular offensive talent and one of the greatest scorers the league’s ever seen. He’s running away with the scoring title again this season. If he wins, it will be his third. But the daily fine-tuning of his iso game and his commitment to flailing and whistle hunting has made him difficult to enjoy watching sometimes. I am not interesting or original for thinking this about Harden. He’s got more than his fair share of critics and all of us mainly say the same boring stuff over and over whenever we talk about him. As a massive hater of both myself and the world, however, I do think there’s something essential missing from his game. It’s not a joylessness exactly. He can have a good time. He can entertain. He can win you a bunch of games. I think it’s just sometimes you watch him and he’s not there.

These types of on-court interactions are familiar to Beverley (he was born in it, molded by it, so on). He’s an obviously unbelievable defender who plays inspiringly hard and pulls this lame type of stuff too much. It’s beneath a defender of his caliber. This wasn’t even his most famous flop on Harden this season. Just ten days later, he got fined $5,000 for violating the league’s anti-flopping rules during a Rox-Clips game in Los Angeles.

Beverley is out there to annoy, to frustrate, to wreak some version of havoc. Sometimes the havoc is real. Sometimes it’s imagined. It’s always the goal. A buddy of mine has a friend who used to work repoing cars in Arkansas. He repossessed Beverley’s Ford Explorer in Fayetteville at one point. Probably between 2006-08, when Beverley was in college there. There was a notebook in the vehicle with MATH on the front and the CD in the tray was the soundtrack for Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. I would love nothing more than to roast Beverley for this, but I went and checked out the track listing for that album and aside from one R. Kelly song, it is unassailable. It is banger after banger after the remix to “Thong Song.” I always called it “The Thong Song.” I would throw “the” in there at the beginning. Not sure if I was alone in that or not, but that’s what I thought it was called. Ever since Sisqo unleashed the dragon, though, I have always felt that “The Thong Song” was hard to say out loud. The back-to-back “th” sound is not as easy as it looks. It makes sense why Sisqo went with “Thong Song.” As with most things in life, it’s ultimately a matter of efficiency.

Tyler Parker is a writer from Oklahoma.