‘I Am Sick Of The Sissification Of The Game’: ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy Thinks The NBA Has Gone Soft

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Every once in a while, even Jeff Van Gundy gets one right. 

During game five of the Western Conference Finals between the LA Clippers and the Phoenix Suns, Van Gundy grew fed up with the referees going to the monitor to review potential flagrant fouls, saying he was tired of the “sissification” of the game. 

With just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter, Paul George of the Clippers took a hand to the face from the Suns Jae Crowder on a contested jumper. 

The refs went to the monitor to check for a possible flagrant foul, and Van Gundy just couldn’t contain his disgust. 

“I am sick of the sissification of the game,” Van Gundy said. “That’s not a flagrant foul. He contested, he fouled him, shoot your two free throws.” 

Van Gundy’s sidekick — Mark Jackson — disagreed, saying that Crowder “understood what he was doing.” 

The referees agreed with Jackson, hitting Crowder with a flagrant foul and allowing George to step to the free throw line to essentially ice the game for the Clippers. 

As expected, social media got a hold of the clip and had a field day. 

“Paul George just played the best, most important game of his career, and Jeff Van Gundy out here talking about ‘sissification’ – aka calling him a sissy,” Jordan Schultz of ESPN said. “What are we doing to these players sports media? Seriously though.”

The thing is, Van Gundy isn’t wrong. Maybe his word choice could have been better, but the NBA has become an increasingly soft league over the past several years. Players are focused on drawing fouls more than ever, and “player safety” has become an important topic in the league offices’. 

Van Gundy also comes from a different era of basketball. He was head coach of the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets from 1995-2007, and his teams were known for their defensive intensity and willingness to mix it up.

Earlier in game five, Clippers guard Patrick Beverley was assessed a flagrant foul for contact made on Chris Paul while trying to fight through a Deandre Ayton screen. 

The contact was minimal at best, but Paul — well-known for his ability to sell fouls — went air-born and slammed to the ground, causing the refs to go to the monitor to check whether a flagrant was warranted. 

Under the NBA rule, the definition for a flagrant foul is: 

  • Flagrant Foul Penalty 1: Unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent
  • Flagrant Foul Penalty 2: Unnecessary and excessive contact committed by a player against an opponent

The issue is that it’s at the referee’s discretion whether a foul warrants a review or not. It leads to confusion for the viewers, who are often left to wonder what constitutes a flagrant. 

A perfect example of what leads to fan confusion on flagrant foul calls occurred in the third quarter. 

Suns forward Cam Johnson caught Paul George with an elbow as he tried to get away from his contest, clearly falling in the “unnecessary contact” category. 

The play wasn’t reviewed, shocking both Van Gundy and Jackson on the broadcast. 

No one has any idea what warrants a flagrant call anymore, and we all would enjoy a game that allows for more physicality.

Van Gundy just had the courage to say what we were all thinking.

Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to [email protected].

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