As far as the four major sports are concerned, there comes a time during every season when the shittiest teams in the league accept their shittiness and engage in a race to the bottom with their fellow failures in the hopes of securing a prime draft pick in an attempt to turn things around. In fact, it’s become such an accepted practice that oddsmakers take it into consideration when setting lines for games featuring squads who stand to lose a lot by winning.
The Philadelphia 76ers perfected the art of tanking while begging fans to “trust ‘The Process'” a few years ago, which is probably part of the reason the NBA has started to crack down on the strategy. Mark Cuban found himself $600,000 poorer in February when he admitted that the Mavericks’ best option was losing as many games as possible and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said teams run the risk of being punished for blatantly losing.
As a result, tanking at the end of the season has become the league’s equivalent of card counting: you have to figure out how to cheat the system without anyone noticing what you’re doing.
During a recent podcast, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said he spoke with a number of NBA executives who were pissed off at coaches for not tanking hard enough— including one unnamed owner who went out of his way to berate the man he pays to win games for not losing enough games:
“I never heard more talk from front office executives’ frustration with coaches who were winning games that they didn’t want them to win. And owners, I know of an instance of an owner berating, really berating his coach here in the last several weeks of the season for going in and beating a pretty good team on the road, going ‘what are you doing?’ And think about that, that should not be going on.”
Deadspin did a deep dive to try to figure out the owner’s identity and noted that the top candidate was the Atlanta Hawks’ Antony Ressler, whose squad beat two playoff teams late in the season— wins that ultimately dropped them down two lottery spots (they’ll have the fourth pick in the draft).
If he is indeed the culprit, at least he has his $2.1 billion net worth to make him feel better.