NBA Commissioner talked to Mark Cuban over tanking admission


When Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban admitted to tanking in order to enhance his team’s standing in the 2017 draft lottery, it was easy to wonder what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would have to say about a pro football owner saying something like that. It’s now known what NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had to say about it.

“[I]t’s not what you want to hear as commissioner,” Silver said Wednesday, via “I will say that Mark has a long track record of being provocative, and it was something that we spoke to him directly about. I think he acknowledged it was a poor choice of words. When we looked at what was actually happening on the floor, which is most important to me, there was no indication whatsoever that his players were intentionally losing games. And so we were satisfied with that, and again, and we moved on.”

Poor choice of words? How else would he say “we were trying to lose games”? More importantly, Cuban never expressly said the players were intentionally losing games. Cuban said that “[o]nce we were eliminated from the playoffs, we did everything we could to lose games.”

Tanking doesn’t happen, and won’t happen, by players deliberately throwing games. Tanking happens at the ownership and/or executive level, with decisions made about who will and won’t be playing. In the NFL, it manifests itself by, for example, the Buccaneers yanking half their starters while holding a double-digit lead in the second half of a Week 17 game in 2014 against the Saints, eventually losing, and securing the right to select Jameis Winston with the first pick in the draft.

It was obvious when it happened, but it received scant national media scrutiny — and absolutely no comment at all from 345 Park Avenue.

Unlike the NBA, which implicitly acknowledges the temptation to tank by having a draft lottery, the NFL simply avoids the subject altogether. Would a draft lottery become a major offseason tentpole from which the NFL would earn millions? Hell yes. But the league doesn’t want to do anything that would recognize directly or indirectly the reality that, once a team knows it won’t be going to the playoffs, it makes very good business sense to remove starters, insert scrubs, sink as low as possible in the standings — and, in turn, rise as high as possible in the draft order.

Although Silver conveniently, albeit clumsily, brushed Cuban’s comments under the rug, the safest bet regarding how Roger Goodell would react to an NFL owner saying something similar is this: He’d treat it like an NSFW tweet from Jim Irsay and pretend it never happened.

28 responses to “NBA Commissioner talked to Mark Cuban over tanking admission

  1. So rather than address the actual tanking that at least a quarter of the teams do each year, he’ll just address the choice of words when admitting to tanking. Makes sense. Just trust the process, I guess.

  2. Highly doubt you could pull starters in say, week 12 in the NFL. Too many having playing time incentives, and just the fact that everyone knows who the best players are, there would be a major revolt. The second half of the last game of the season, who cares?

  3. Tanking to get an enhanced draft pick or picks carries with it a business risk that the fans will not attend current games, not buy team merchandise or pay for the PSLs the following year. In other words, tanking runs the risk of alienating the fan base, high end seat prices, advertising opportunities and impacting current cash flow for the owners. It would be interesting to see the business impact on the Colts franchise when they undoubtedly “sucked for Luck”. The Jets have tanked the season in the name of “rebuilding” which poses the question – when are you tanking or are you protecting future assets (who undoubtedly have soft tissue injuries but could play) or rebuilding (as with the Browns, Jets, 49ers, etc.)? The answer is the subjective intent of the front office and owner. Good luck (bad pun) on distinguishing and prosecuting the offenders (unless it’s NE – they are always guilty regardless of facts, science or reality).

  4. This topic is somewhat archaic. Ever hear of “Suck for Luck” and what the NY Jets are apparently doing this coming season? No one suggests that this tactic is instrumental to the league but rather detrimental but it is what it is.

  5. What could be worse for the integrity of the game than to have an organization set itself up to intentionally lose games when its fans who pay for tickets expect their team to do everything possible to win? Tanking is also cheating because you are gaining a draft advantage over teams that are legitimately trying to win that may not be any more talented than you. Also teams that are vying for a playoff spot who have a tanking team on their schedule have an unfair advantage over teams that do not. Roger, what say you?

  6. It’s a tough call in the NFL because every rep a young player can get is something to build on. Is getting the bench warmers some reps toward the end of a lost season really a bad thing if it makes the entire team more competitive the following season? For the weak teams there are only sixteen opportunities to get the more developmental guys on the field in a real game. Unless you’re at the very top of the draft, this is a more important issue than your draft spot. A 5, 6, 7 win team isn’t tanking to move up a spot or two. It’s only the really bad teams with a shot at a top three pick that legitimately tank. The other teams are just getting guys reps.

  7. Poor choice of words? How else would he say “we were trying to lose games”?
    – – – –

    Instead of saying the Mavs were trying to lose, Cuban could have said, “We are playing our younger players to see what we have.”

    Surely this site, which was started by a lawyer, knows the value of semantics!

  8. It would be neat if the draft worked from the middle out. So the team that just missed the playoffs gets the first pick, then the next team away from the playoffs gets the second pick, etc. The worst team would pick somewhere in the middle (behind the teams that just missed, but ahead of the teams that made the playoffs).

    This gives all teams something to play for, even if they’re out of the playoff hunt and it would help competitive balance (especially in the NBA) if teams that were just on the cusp were getting infused with the top talent to push them over the edge and potentially shake up the playoff picture the next year.

  9. That’s how the Penguins got Lemieux. They lost one more game than the NJ Devils (guess which team won the final game the previous season).

    The Houston Astros tanked for three years straight and now they have the best record in the AL and are loaded with All Stars.

    That blueprint hasn’t worked out very well for the Philly 76ers, however.

  10. “Tanking doesn’t happen, and won’t happen, by players deliberately throwing games.”

    Really ??? And how do you know that ??? Are you telling me there is NO WAY a gambler could give a key player a million (or ten million) to lose a game (or win a game by 6 or less in a game they are favored by 7), and NO ONE would bite ???

    Riiiiiight !

  11. Best way to get rid of tanking? Relegation, like they do in the top soccer leagues in europe.

    No way owners in any american sports league would go along with it though, when t hey can share $7.8 Billion without even trying.

  12. If you’re at the point in the season where you have nothing left to play for, what’s so wrong trying to improve draft positioning? Is it not strategic? I’m not all for tanking from day 1, but if you’re team ends up not being very good, and week 9-10 rolls around and you’re basically eliminated from the post season what’s the big deal? Yeah it can be hard on the fans, a little, but wouldn’t being a mediocre team for years on end and stuck in “purgatory” be even worse? You build a team, if you’re doing it right, through the draft. That’s where your foundation comes from. Very rarely does a foundation piece come from free agency, at least in the NFL. Of course there are exceptions, but it’s VERY hard to find elite QB’s, offensive tackles (your bookends), and elite defensive lineman and pass rushers in the latter picks of the first round.

  13. kd75 says:
    Jul 13, 2017 1:06 PM
    That’s how the Penguins got Lemieux. They lost one more game than the NJ Devils (guess which team won the final game the previous season).

    The Houston Astros tanked for three years straight and now they have the best record in the AL and are loaded with All Stars.

    That blueprint hasn’t worked out very well for the Philly 76ers, however.


    The 76ers went about it in an unbelievably patient, and odd, way by drafting players who had injury concerns and letting them train and heal with their pro staff. Who knows what Embiid’s long term prognosis is, but he’s shown when he’s played that he’s darn near already an elite Center. They certainly didn’t expect Simmons to get injured last year, that was just an unfortunate twist of fate. We’re about to see this season and beyond if their “tanking” will actually pay off or not. “The Process” for them is done, starting this season we can start to gauge whether or not it may work.

  14. Tanking is a little different in the NFL. alot of times they just call it ” rebuilding ” because there is one big reason to do it.

    They could be in salary cap hell and the need to start cutting high priced vets ” sometimes even good ones “. Then you go a couple of seasons of hell while trying to build through the draft. and still not guaranteed to be better, but its how it works in the NFL.

    Or you just need any hope of a franchise QB because your team isnt built to win on defense. and since QB is so important, its worth tanking for one.

    These teams tanking in the NBA arnt really tanking, they just have no chance with the super teams being stacked up every year. and this is what would happen to the NFL with no salary cap.

  15. Playing star players less once a team is out of the playoffs is a good thing especially in the NFL. Why risk the injury?

  16. raideralex99 says:
    Jul 13, 2017 2:25 PM

    Playing star players less once a team is out of the playoffs is a good thing especially in the NFL. Why risk the injury?

    I think what you said is more accurate than using the term tanking.

    I would almost bet anything that the NFL will never ever go to a lottery system. The one thing the NFL does best is “protect the shield” and they don’t want the negative thoughts that comes with the word tanking.

    One reason I despise the NBA so much is that they openly tank seasons and don’t really care what anyone says. That and the super teams.

  17. The Colts did not tank the 11′ season. Go watch the games. Go ask the people involved if they wanted to be fired or released. Go ask people like Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis, Dwight Freeney if they weren’t trying to win games. They signed Kerry Collins once it became all to clear that Peyton couldn’t go, but that wasn’t a foregone conclusion going into training camp… No one knew.. How quickly we forget details in favor of advancing our preferred narratives

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