To Tank or Not to Tank


It’s never wise to make generalizations about teams after less than a week’s worth of games.  But as sports writers, we do it anyway.  After the opening week of action in the NBA, the best team is none other than the Philadelphia 76ers, who have chosen not to tank for star Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins.

As of this writing, the Sixers are a shocking 3-0, picking up victories against the Wizards (but Washington isn’t that great, right?), the Bulls (okay, this is pretty impressive, but D-Rose isn’t himself yet) and the Heat (alright, now we’re talking).  Normally, a 3-0 start would not be cause for such surprise.  However, the 76ers were predicted to be the worst team in the NBA.  They were (and probably still are) expected to take part in the riggin’ for Wiggins campaign.  In other words, they were supposed to tank this season in hopes of getting the first pick in next year’s NBA Draft, which would be the 6-foot-8 Kansas freshman forward Andrew Wiggins.  His skill set has been described by CBS analyst Doug Gottlieb as a combination of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Tracy McGrady.  It is no wonder a bad team (which wouldn’t make the playoffs anyway) would tank to draft the next NBA superstar.  However, it seems that Philadelphia has not chosen to take this route.

The idea of tanking has always generated a great deal of discussion.  Doesn’t a team owe its fans quality basketball day in and day out?  With the exorbitant costs of ticket prices and concessions, it takes a small fortune to take your family to a sporting event.  The least that paying fans can ask for is to watch a competitive team.  On the other hand, tanking can definitely have long-term benefits if you are willing to endure short-term misery.  More than any other sport, the NBA is a superstar driven league, and it is impossible to win a championship without one or two megastars under contract.  What is the actual benefit of finishing with a mediocre record and getting only a decent player with the 10th draft pick, when finishing with an absolutely horrible record can get you a superstar draft player who can have an immediate, positive impact on your team?

In any case, the Philadelphia 76ers have taken the first approach (and, in my opinion, the correct one): they believe that they owe their fans competitive and quality basketball no matter what.  So far this season, they have highly exceeded even this standard.  Led by energetic rookie Michael Carter-Williams, they have taken the league by storm.  It could be (and probably is) a case of a bad team not yet knowing they are bad, and that they should be losing these games instead of winning.  Nevertheless, it is never good for any professional sports organization to accept a culture where losing and tanking is tolerated and accepted, even if it does have the possibility of leading to future success.  That short-term misery affects thousands of fans who pay their hard-earned money to be entertained.  In the end, fans should be the number one priority, and they should expect 100 percent effort from their favorite players every game.