Olympic basketball can get a little testy at times. Players are giving their all on the court in order to advance to the next round and make their countries and fans proud.
When games are testy, especially when they are close as the clock winds down in the fourth quarter, emotions can come to a head. That is exactly what happened when Spain and France met in their first game of elimination play on Wednesday.
France outplayed Spain throughout the first half of the game and held onto a three point lead at the half. Unfortunately, Spain, thanks to their defense made a run on the French and took the lead. As France tried in vain to come back, tempers flared. Ronny Turiaf committed a hard foul on Rudy Fernandez as he brought the ball towards halfcourt. Fernandez went sprawling to the ground giving Twitter all the flop fodder it needed to chastise him. The ice pack on the back while he lay on the sidelines was the icing on top of the whole incident.
Moments later, with 24 seconds left in the quarterfinal match, Nicolas Batum delivered the blow that will define this game for years to come. As Spain’s Juan Carlos Navarro received the inbounds pass and turned to head up court, Batum came flying in, right fist clenched, and delivered a hard punch to Navarro’s groin. Apparently groin punching is all the rage in Olympic play this year as this was the second time in three days that it has occurred.
This was a rather malicious play, as the above GIF denotes. Yet, Batum was not tossed from the game. If this occurred in an NBA game there is no question a flagrant foul 2 would have been assessed followed by a health fine and several game suspension. But in the Olympics? Play on.
Spain won the game 66-59.
After the game, Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski asked Batum why he threw the punch in the first place. He responded, “I wanted to give him a good reason to flop.”
At least he has a good sense of humor about the whole incident.