We all remember those kids on our childhood playground who didn’t get their way, so they would threaten to take their ball and go home. They must have all grown up to be NBA general managers and owners because that seems to have become the new strategy for winning in the NBA.
“Tanking” is a strategy that has been around for ever in one form or another. When I first started following sports it was talked about in hushed tones because fans were ashamed to admit that their team may actually be doing it. Now most fans seem to wear it like a badge of honor.
The funny thing, is that the NBA is the one league where it doesn’t make sense to tank, since the top pick isn’t automatically awarded to the worst team. The league came up with a lottery system a few years back which determines which teams get the top three picks. In other words you could have the worst record in the league and still select fourth overall.
Yet, teams like the 76ers are wagering all their hopes and dreams of winning now on the hope of building for the future. They’ve gone as far as to draft an injured player like Joel Embiid, who they knew was going to miss the season and give them a better chance for a high pick the next year. For awhile the strategy worked and it looked like they had gotten themselves a great young player as well, but guess what? The player who was hurt when they drafted him, turns out to be injury prone… Huge surprise. Right?
Injuries often lead to more injuries, just like a losing mentality usually leads to losing. The reason why the kid who took his ball and went home, most likely isn’t an NBA player right now is, while he was sitting at home pouting because no one would make it easy for him to win, the others were learning how. Winning is an attitude!
That’s why, Anthony Bennett, Anthony Davis, John Wall, Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Greg Oden, Andrea Bargnani, Andrew Bogut and Dwight Howard never brought a championship ship to the team who drafted them. As a matter offact Kyrie Irving and LeBron James even needed special circumstances to be able to pull it off. Yao Ming, Kwame Brown, Kenyon Martin, Elton Brand and Michael Olowokandi weren’t able to do it either. The last guy who legitimately led the team that drafted him to a championship without being part of a fabricated super-team was Tim Duncan who was drafted way back in 1997. He was drafted by a team who was already good but happened to “accidentally” have a bad season.
If you’ve followed along closely here you will see that #1 overall draft pick in the NBA pretty much never wins a championship. So basically, GMs are hoping that by building a team full of losers they will eventually win.
Tanking has never made sense and it never will, because just like winning, losing is an attitude. Let’s continue to pull for the teams that are doing it right, so the NBA will thrive as a winning league.