Word on the Street

Injury Fakery (in’-juh-re fak’-uh-re) noun. When a pickup basketball player pretends to be injured in order to gain a temporary advantage.

Usage example:A minute ago, that guy was limping around like his leg was gonna fall off. Then all of a sudden he sprinted downcourt at top speed. That was some serious injury fakery right there.”

Word trivia: Injury fakery happens alarmingly often in pickup basketball, which is pretty funny because most pickup ballers consider themselves reasonably tough …and many of them display characteristics associated with alpha male syndrome. Maybe it’s just me, but pretending you have a booboo doesn’t seem very alpha male to me.

The main reasons a player will fake an injury are:

1. To sell a foul: Leading basketball scientists estimate that nearly 80 percent of the fouls called during a typical pickup game are either partially or completely bogus. And some people think that’s a conservative estimate. Makeup calls, karma calls, embarrassment calls and just a plain lack of integrity can lead to ridiculous fouls that leave some people scratching their heads and others fantasizing about a brutal and bloody homicide. However, savvy players (read that: shameless fakers) have discovered that fabricating an injury is the best way to sell a weak (or even nonexistent) foul.

After all, if a man screams out in pain, drops to the floor like a stone while clutching his knee/ankle/whatever, or grabs his face like he was bitchslapped by the Hulk, then it stands to reason he MUST have been fouled …and fouled hard. In many cases, there may be some grumbling or a few hushed whispers suggesting injury fakery, but most players will leave the situation alone or even show concern (or at least feign it). To question an injury isn’t only an accusation against the “injured” player, it’s an indictment of human nature. Because people are better than that, right? (Click here.)

Plus, a lot of pickup ballers secretly fear that if they accuse another player of faking an injury, they might face the same accusation the next time they get injured …and their next injury might even be real.

2. To trick the player he’s matched up with: The best way to succeed in basketball is to exploit mismatches. That’s just Common Sense 101. When I’m being guarded by a smaller player, I immediately try to post him up. When I’m defended by a slower player, I drive at every opportunity. And when the man I’m matched up against is hurt, I try to use that to my advantage. Conversely, I assume that an injured player will be limited (at best) or a non-factor (at worst) on offense because of his impairment.

And that’s exactly what an injury faker wants his opponent to think.

For instance, a pickup baller might think that he can casually job back on defense because his man has a gimpy knee. This might be done out of laziness or sympathy for the “injured” player (because some pickup ballers actually try to avoid embarrassing their opponents). That’s when the faker will strike, abandoning his exaggerated limp and rocketing downcourt for an easy layup. Mind you, this tactic will only work once or twice, but one or two baskets can decide a game.

The same thing can happen when a pickup baller is trying to score. He may assume that his defender won’t be able to challenge his shot due to the ankle injury he suffered two possessions ago. Surprise! That hurt player just skyed up for an atom smasher.

3. To trick his teammates: Sometimes (or even most of the time), a pickup baller will be matched up against someone who is better than he is. Maybe much better. It’s just one of the unfortunate breaks of the game. And when it happens, the lesser player is probably in for a long and humiliating night. However, that humiliation can be reduced (maybe even to nil) if the lesser player pretends to be hurt. See, that gives him an excuse for getting scored on repeatedly or having his shots routinely fed back to him, Wilsonburger-style. “I just can’t stay with him guys,” a breathless baller might tell his teammates. “It’s this bum ankle. I can hardly move.”

Sadly, this doesn’t only happen in the face of superior competition. In some cases, the faker might simply be a lazy or careless defender. Instead of digging in and trying to shut down his man, it’s easier to just pretend that expending the necessary effort is physically impossible.

Of course, injury fakery might also be used after missing an open or easy shot. For instance, a player might chuck up a 25-foot airball and then grab his hand or arm as if the miss was the result of some painful arm cramp instead of terrible shot selection.

I’m not saying Pierce faked an injury in the 2008 NBA Finals. This was the first image that came up when I searched for “fake injury.” Seriously.

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Labels: Paul Pierce / 2008 NBA Finals / NBA / Word on the Street

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