The “tanking” conversation has been looming over the sports world longer than I’ve been alive. It just so happens that when it comes to tanking we live in the golden age, and I specifically live in it’s Mecca. Through the Philadelphia 76ers mid-2010’s tanking process, I had the displeasure of being a college student attempting to break into the world of sports journalism. The 76ers successfully tanked after years of hard work to remain terrible. Admittedly the 76ers were the most “in your face” about the fact that they were tanking, so much so that there was a debate as to how long the 76ers would continue to tank for. As a Sixers fan, I am inherently biased in favor of tanking, but I’m also realistic in saying that there is nothing concrete that can be done about tanking.
Tanking, for an NBA franchise, is like a person going back to college late in life. They see an opportunity to better themselves long term, and they sacrifice the short term for the long term. It’s seen as this negative thing, but in reality, it’s someone seeing the options for their future, then taking the initiative make their future better. The 76ers decided to tank, rather than try to win a championship with Andre Igoudala or Jrue Holiday - it’s not the craziest idea in the world.
That being said, tanking does have its negative effects on the NBA, teams are not seen as real contenders, fan bases feel alienated, and every team doesn’t get Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Not everyone is as open to the idea of tanking as I am, especially not the NBA. There has been a movement to crack down on the tactic, and I believe I have a solution that could make the NBA money, please the fans, give developing players exposure, and discourage tanking.
The idea is a 20-team single elimination tournament taking place in July that would include:
the bottom 8 NBA teams
8 teams made up of the top 3 G-League players from each of the 27 G-League teams
& 4 (wild card) teams that have to play a qualifying game (International, former players, etc.)
This tournament would help to fill the “sports gap” that occurs in the Summer. This tournament would discourage teams from falling to the bottom of their conferences and generate more interest in the regular season. Teams that would consider tanking rather than rebuilding in the midst of a mediocre season would think twice about making their players play in July. The tournament can sell advertisements, be televised, give young players exposure, and generate interest in the NBA. This could be seen as a marketing tool for the NBA to reach out to under-served markets, the tournament could take place in Seattle, China, middle America, Vancouver, Madrid, or South Africa. The NBA is the only league constantly changing and adapting, this could be a leap in the right direction to solve their tanking problem, squash the Big-3, please their fan base, and make some money on the way.
Of course, there would need to be a massive price and incentives to play – but this is the NBA that we’re talking about. This would serve the same competitive purpose as relegation in the Premier League, teams will pride themselves on never appearing in the tournament, and other teams will be regularly featured.
A 20-team single elimination tournament would consist of 19 games that would likely air for two weeks on television in the summer, the NBA teams would play no more than 4 games, and they likely would not want to lose to a team of G-Leaguers or a visiting Real Madrid / Anadolu Efes.
I’d love to see this tournament, I think it could benefit the sport, and I’d love to start this conversation. The NBA has a wider global reach than any of the other American based professional sports organizations, this is big picture, an opportunity for the NBA to set itself up as a step ahead of the NFL as it feuds over the flag and as MLB tries to make baseball fun.