Mark Cuban admits to ongoing tanking

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As the NFL continues to pretend that tanking in football never happens, an NBA owner has admitted — again — that he wants his team to lose now, in order to best position it to win later.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told Dan Patrick last May that “[o]nce we were eliminated from the playoffs, we did everything we could to lose games.” PFT addressed the issue at the time, which clearly isn’t a football story, due to curiosity over how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would react to such a direct assault to the so-called integrity of the game. Soon, we found out what NBA Commissioner Adam Silver thought of the remarks.

“[I]t’s not what you want to hear as commissioner,” Silver said at the time. “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.”

To cram the comment and response into a different context, it was the equivalent of a bank robber holding up the cash and bragging about the heist and the owner of the bank saying, “That was a poor choice of words. We’ve found no evidence of a bank robbery.”

It now gets better, or maybe worse. Appearing on Julius Erving’s podcast, Cuban admitted that tanking was happening last season, and that it’s still happening now.

“I’m probably not supposed to say this, but I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night,” Cuban said, via “And here we are, we weren’t competing for the playoffs. I was like, ‘Look, losing is our best option.’ Adam [Silver] would hate hearing that, but at least I sat down, and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we’re not going to tank again. This was a year-and-a-half tanking, and that was too brutal for me. But being transparent, I think that’s the key to being kind of a players owner and having stability.”

So, basically, the bank robber once again is showing off the stacks and boasting. What will the owner of the bank say now?

It’s a fascinating case study for anyone who follows the NFL, because football has an even greater temptation to tank than basketball. With no draft lottery, the path between deliberately losing (typically by instructing the coaching staff to see what younger or lesser players can do in late-season games) and an improved draft position continues to be simple, clear, and easy.

And, frankly, it’s good business. Who cares if a non-playoff team is 7-9, 6-10, 5-11, 4-12, 3-13, or worse? While it’s always a good idea to avoid going 0-16 (or 1-31), the reward for a periodic nightmare can be the kind of player who delivers a decade or more of dreams come true. Look for the NFL to continue to sleepwalk through these obvious late-season scenarios, unless and until an owner admits to tanking — and Goodell can then say, “That’s not what he said.”

37 responses to “Mark Cuban admits to ongoing tanking

  1. Show some evidence of tanking in the NFL first Florio. This site has speculated since Luck that this goes on but can’t show an ounce of evidence for it. Who did the tanking in Indy? The coaching that got fired? The GM that got fired? Not to mention how Polian’s son’s career got sidelined for years after that.

    In football we don’t see players rest very often unless it is like the Packers with Rodgers this year but they still played their other starters. If the starters are playing they aren’t going to put out bad film to hurt their earning power and possibly lose their job to a high draft pick. Since the NFL only has 16 games coaches and players don’t want to look bad for any play. Careers are too short in this league.

  2. As a Giants’ fan, I love the 3 and 13 season now. I knew they would win that 3rd game, just glad the Baltimore (in the middle of the night Indy) Colts found a way to win.

    But not ONCE during the season did I root against them. Not for a moment. But now it’s like getting ice cream after eating something brutal at a friend’s house (my mother and wife were/are great cooks).

    I was rooting for the Beagles, Cowboys and Redskins to win. Kind of disappointed in the Redskins. That was hard. Real hard.

  3. “While it’s always a good idea to avoid going 0-16 (or 1-31)…”

    Why? Apparently in some places, that’s good enough and there aren’t any consequences for putting out such piss pott poor work.

  4. Don’t forget the lottery was created not long after Donald Sterling publicly stated the Clippers needed to lose (more) in order to draft Ralph Sampson. Not to say it wasn’t happening already he just forced the NBA’s hand.

  5. WEll, it was pretty obvious when the Colts threw games for the “Suck for Luck” Draft position.
    Now it seems Andrew is giving them back a bit of their own medicine. I wouldn’t want to play for that horrible tram either where slaughterhouse Beef get less trauma than their QB’s.

  6. The days of Jordan, Barkley, Ewing, Magic, and Bird are long gone. Now you have the wasteland of crap until the the Finals where the two super teams play each other year after year and nobody cares. NBA has been rigged for 15 years and it’s not that hard to see if you’ve watched a playoff series in that span.

  7. We all know that owners and head coaches in both leagues, NFL & NBA, do it. Positioning for the best draft position is just a good business decision.

    Cuban is a jerk but I appreciate him being honest.

  8. There is no benefit to tanking in football. Coaches get fired, players get cut, fans stop buying tickets.

    It’s been said infinite times, but the best players aren’t necessarily found at the top of the draft.

  9. Players won’t rank unless money is involved. What the team does for player transactions, who sits and who gets traded are all part of an organizations attempts to tank. Silver did a nice job of skirting the topic.

    Oh and Cuban has lost all rights to criticize the nfl at all

  10. backintheday99 – It was actually the Giants who were the beagles (dogs) this season. One team lost seven critical starters, including their MVP caliber QB……..and won a Super Bowl. Another team lost a couple of wide receivers and finished 3-13. I am looking forward to the Midgets overpaying for Justin Pugh……..and crossing their fingers in hopes of finding Eli’s replacement. Good luck!

  11. “So, basically, the bank robber once again is showing off the stacks and boasting. What will the owner of the bank say now?”

    You do realize that the commissioner is the proverbial bank robber’s employee, right? The commissioner serves at the pleasure of the owners, just like the players do. Granted, the commish probably has a friendlier contract than most players, but the owners could still fire him tomorrow if they wanted.

    So Adam Silver will probably say nothing meaningful in response, because he is a smart millionaire who likes his job.

  12. Wouldn’t it be funny if they tried to tank but the team they were playing tanked better? Final score 20 to 18, Mavericks.

  13. I can remember a few years ago when the city of dallas had a qb that wanted to win so bad he played a second half with broken ribs suffered in thenfkrst half. Multiple back surgeries and too many beatings forced him out and yet the cowboy bandwagon fans ripped him. If i were a mavs fan i’d get a lawyer and try to redeem some ofmthe ticket money back. How can anyone root for an owner with so little regard for thenhard working stiffs filling that arena. A disgrace

  14. A good athlete can’t just play badly when he’s played as hard as he can his whole life. Nearly all good athletes have a lot of pride. That’s how they got to the NFL. Besides, why would he tank? He’d just look bad on the game tape and hurt his career. While a higher draft pick might help the team, it just increases the odds his team will bring in a better player to replace him. Over the years, there’s countless examples of teams with nothing to play for beating teams with playoff spots on the line. (For example, the Bengals beating the Lions and the Ravens this year.) Talk of tanking is fun for conspiracy theorists, but it doesn’t make sense in reality.

  15. I think there is a HUGE difference between the NBA and the NFL when it comes to the talent available and the ability to predict how a young player will transition to the next level.

    In the NFL, the draft is a major crap shoot and many great players are drafted in later rounds and some even go undrafted. It is also much more of a team-oriented game, where you usually need MANY good to great players to win consistently.

    In the NBA, the draft is MUCH MORE top loaded. The difference in predictability in talent is MUCH higher in the NBA. You can almost say for certain that some players will be very good. Also, the NBA relies on far fewer great players. You can change the entire complexity of the NBA if you moved 20 players around the entire league. In the NFL, some rosters have almost that much turnover in one year.

  16. Mike, how does this narrative fit with the reality that the only two games with the most overt tanking consequences– the Colts and Giants Week 17 games, resulted in both teams winning??

  17. Liberalsruineverything says:
    February 20, 2018 at 5:46 pm
    The days of Jordan, Barkley, Ewing, Magic, and Bird are long gone. Now you have the wasteland of crap until the the Finals where the two super teams play each other year after year and nobody cares. NBA has been rigged for 15 years and it’s not that hard to see if you’ve watched a playoff series in that span.

    I’ve been watching since 1999 and it’s so obvious how rigged it has become

  18. Illogical to equate football and basketball in respect to tanking starting with talent pool and many other reason including players still give it their all because of non guaramted contracts.

  19. Thank God this news was on a football site. I might have missed it otherwise.

    Does anyone who matters still watch the NBA?

  20. That is a fairly big logical jump that a team sport like basketball where one player makes a huge difference on a team translates to football where the rosters and the players playing on the field are twice as large. I would like examples of teams in the NFL in 2016 or 2017 that were tanking. I can’t think of any. Even the Jets this year surprised everyone by being competitive most of year despite purging their overpayed and underperforming veterans. The reason players don’t tank in football is that they know they have a very high chance of being injured unless they go all out to just protect themselves from opponents who are doing their best to knock the stuffing out of them. The next is players are prideful and have to worry about their future employment and if you’re caught on film not trying then who will hire you in the future. None of those things exist in basketball because of guaranteed salaries and the much lower risk of physical contact and injury. Plus if the solution is a draft lottery look at the Edmonton Oilers who allegedly tanked and won the draft lottery several years in a row and are still in last place with their number 1 pick and all around world beater like Conner McDavid.

  21. Also, my Hornets had the worst winning percentage season in NBA history, and still didn’t get the #1 pick because of the draft lottery. Sorry Hornets, no Anthony Davis for you.

  22. Although it might happen occasionally in football, it’s rare. It’s not a regular occurrence. People expected the Jets to tank last season but they didn’t. The 49ers were in a position to tank and then won their last 5 games. Nobody tanked in the NFL this season. People bring up Suck for Luck but that is one team, one time. It may happen regularly in basketball but it’s very rare in football.

  23. If you are a fan and would rather be sold the lie that your team is “competing” by spending enough to be be a middling team that does just well enough to line the owners’ pockets, more power to you. I like to hear the truth and as much as some may hate this strategy it makes sense with the way the rules are set up to promote parity. Mediocrity only rewards owners, who stand to make a profit no matter what.

  24. There is a benefit to tanking in football, but it needs to be done correctly:

    1 – Owner buy in is essential. No sense in tanking if you will be fired. Tanking must come from the owner, with guarantees to coaches and the GM.

    2 – Season 1 – cut the big contracts, accelerating cap hits, but clearing the decks for future seasons.

    3 – Season 1 & 2 – trade down, and trade this years for more or better picks next year. (i.e. I give you my third round pick for next years 2nd OR this years 3rd for next years 3rd and 4th)

    4 – Dont sign free agents, build up cap space that you will use on the players you will draft.

    5 – After sucking and getting a high pick, draft a QB. Don’t mess around like the Browns, unless you are ok with tanking for many years.

  25. The problem with tanking in sports is that it’s simply not logical for the players, and likely the coaches as well, to do so. Why would players intentionally put bad film on tape so that their team can get a better pick to replace them with? It’s never in a player’s best interest to intentionally play poorly and lose, because it hurts their careers where ever they end up.

    Now, that’s not to say tanking can’t happen from up stairs. A front office might intentionally sell off assets and retool the team with the intention of them sucking so they can have access to better rebuild the franchise. But there really isn’t a ton of evidence to support this

  26. WEll, it was pretty obvious when the Colts threw games for the “Suck for Luck” Draft position.


    How was it obvious. You think Polian had the team tank so he could lose his job? They also came very close to losing that top pick in their last game. There is no evidence to point to they where tanking.

  27. Many of the comments show an unfamiliarity with what tanking really is. The players do not play to lose, but the coaches and organization do not give them everything they need to win. That’s why when you look at a team like the Browns, for example, losing doesn’t mean the guys aren’t playing hard or that the coach has lost them, but sometimes they just don’t have the groceries they need to cook the dinner. There were multiple teams last year starting QBs late in the season that had no business playing, for example. In the NBA- which some commentators here dislike for super-odd political reasons, apparently (I’m a sports fan)- this might mean resting your starters more and seeing what you have with the young guys. yes, it happens in all sports including the NFL.

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