Tanking: The NBA's Downside

Brandon NealCorrespondent IFebruary 7, 2008

I've been playing basketball since I was in elementary school. I'm 24 years old now, so I'm rounding third toward my second decade with a ball in my hand.

I grew up watching the Chicago Bulls dominate the NBA, saw Kobe Bryant put on a Hornets cap, cringed when Tim Duncan was united with The Admiral, dropped my jaw during the Pistons and Pacers brawl, and shed a tear when Kobe scored 81. The 90's were fantastic, and for the last seven years, it was incredibly tough to find a reason to complain about anything associated with the game.

I caught a glimpse of the Miami Heat playing the Detroit Pistons Wednesday night. Miami held its own, fighting to the finish, only to lose by five points. This Miami team is nowhere near the team they were in 2006, but they still have a superstar in Dwyane Wade—not to mention an excellent coach on the sidelines.

It's no secret: Dwyane Wade is seriously injured. He may be as bad as Jermaine O'Neal, who is having numerous problems to date. Stephon Marbury made the decision to end his season early. Elton Brand, a former West All-Star forward, has yet to suit up for the Clippers. Tracy McGrady can be seen limping on and off the court during Houston games and it cost him his All-Star spot this season. 

Honestly, it's not exactly the injuries that make this NBA season a slight turn-off, though. What hurts me would not only be the fans who enjoy the depressing news—those who don't support the team—but also those that do support them, for what seems like all the wrong reasons.

A perfect example of this would be the current discussions over the Heat and next year's draft prospects. It's perfectly fine to say they will land a top pick in the draft, but to be excited about losing only because you want the lottery pick?

Everyone who knows me understands that I dislike the San Antonio Spurs. I'm a Lakers fan—it's my duty to despise our rivals. Unfortunately, our rivals are an astounding team, but the way their supremacy was born gives me reason to question their heart and desire to win.

After a long recovery from David Robinson, which seemed to drag out longer than any other injury in recent memory, the Spurs were in perfect position to select Wake Forest's superhuman, Tim Duncan. It was no laughing matter—the Spurs were already on track to win it all within three years, and it took less than that to bring it home.

Supporting defeat is something I'd never resort to. With the turmoil brewing daily in New Jersey, you could walk up to 50 percent of Nets fans and ask them their opinions on the Jason Kidd situation. You may hear plenty of them speaking in favor of rebuilding, looking forward to the 2008 Draft, hoping that the Nets can get something for Kidd or the Nets continue to lose until they "wise up" and get rid of him.

If your desire starts with losing, you may feel the same way. You may be excited about lottery draft picks and a large amount of cap space, your team being the headline of every NBA discussion, or setting the franchise record for most consecutive losses in a season.

Frankly, I'm the complete opposite. When I was a junior in high school, I shattered my ankle sprinting around the track during basketball conditioning. If you want to know what real pain feels like, mix physical pain with emotional suffering. Sit down in the doctor's office, shaking because you're so nervous, awaiting to hear the good news, only to find that he has declined to tell you any. Try going through extreme physical therapy, on your own, while dealing with low blood sugars and four or five insulin shots a day just to get back on the court.

I did it because I couldn't live without winning. You can't deny the feeling that jets through your veins when you release the perfect shot, when you watch the ball elevate and you are so sure it's automatic, you drop your arms and make your way back down the court.

Do you get goosebumps when you view an arsenal of fans in an arena slinging their arms in the air when a game-winning jumper falls through? I hope so, because if your body contains any emotion whatsoever, and you are dedicated to the game of basketball, you feel just as I do.

There's no excuse—if you're rooting for defeat, you might as well cheer for the opposition for the rest of your life, not only in sports, but for every job you apply for, every contest you enter, and every goal you set. You may have trouble coming to an agreement with all of this, which is absolutely fine, but the difference between a winner and a loser is success.

For any cause, for any reason, due to any scenario or negotiation, losing is never an option until it forces itself upon you. If you fail 99 percent of the time, make sure you come out on top the other one percent, because it not only develops a sense of strength and pride when your peers are tuned in, but also a small boost of self-esteem to ride on until your next victory.

Where I'm always looking for a good quote, I'll take a step forward and write something special myself:

Success isn't defined just by how much you win, but also by the effort you put into a losing situation.

In a world where second place is normally viewed as the first loser, tanking games is definitely an NBA team's substance abuse. No matter when it was used, the opposing fans will never forget it.


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