The NBA Versus the Chinese Basketball Association

I hate to keep harping on this but something new came up.  Remember that the Dallas Mavericks tanked their final game of the regular season intending to miss the playoffs and retain their first-round lottery pick for this year.  NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver responded to this situation by fining the team $740K which is a pittance to owner Mark Cuban whose net worth is estimated at $5.1B.

Something analogous happened in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) playoffs.  The situation there is complicated so I will provide this link for those who want to decipher why the following situation obtained:

  • It was advantageous for both teams to have a specific team win and the other team lose a playoff game.

The two teams involved were the Shanghai Sharks and the Jiangsu Dragons; there would be a benefit to both teams if the Dragons lost.  In the second half of the game, the Dragons committed five consecutive turnovers in the final two minutes to assure a victory for the Sharks. The CBA Commissioner is a familiar name to US sports fans; his name is Yao Ming.  Unlike Adam Silver who administered a slap on the wrist, Yao Ming chose to call the activities of the Jiangsu Dragons and the Shanghai Sharks “game-fixing”.  Wow!  That puts a different slant on what happened as compared to “tanking”.  So, here is the sanction handed down by the CBA Commissioner:

  • Each team was fined the Chinee equivalent of $727K – – very close to how much the Mavs will have to pay.
  • The Sharks’ coach and GM were each given a 5-year ban from the CBA.
  • The Dragons’ coach and GM were each given a 3-year ban from the CBA.

Here is what Yao Ming said when the sanctions were announced:

“For sports games, the most important thing is reputation, rather than ability. Credit is what everybody, every team, the league, and the association is based on. We need to draw a profound lesson from this and change some things in the future to make what we have paid for valuable.”

Adam Silver always holds a press event during the NBA Finals.

  1. Wouldn’t it be great if some member of the media asked him to compare and contrast the punishments handed down in these two situations?
  2. And wouldn’t it be great if someone asked him to differentiate between “tanking” and “game-fixing”?

Silver is never going to use the term ”game-fixing” lest the gambling interests that provide lots of funding for the league get very antsy.  People hate to lose money gambling, but they will hate it a whole lot more if they find out – – or even suspect – – that the game was “fixed”, and they were not “in on the fix”.  But this is an issue that sports leagues must deal with when they dip their beak into the fountain of cash that can come from the myriad gambling sites out there today.  The English Premier League (EPL) seems to have recognized the potential dangers here; the EPL has voted to ban teams from having logos or names of gambling companies on the fronts of their jerseys.  This is not a total ban; logos and names can appear on the jersey sleeves and throughout the stadiums, but this is a step in a direction toward control by the league officials.

Currently eight of the twenty teams in the EPL have some form of sponsorship on the fronts of their jerseys that represent gambling interests.  Currently in Britain, the government is considering new gambling legislation; perhaps the EPL is simply trying to get ahead of some issues that will arise in that process; perhaps this is an indication that the league officials want to be more firmly in control.  Time will tell on this.

To accommodate current sponsorship deals and avoid litigation, this new regulation will take effect in 2025.  As is always the case when political campaigns and issues are advanced, there is an advocacy group involved here called The Big Step.  That group would like to see all gambling sponsorships banned completely including stadium sponsorships.  Obviously, they like the announcement by the EPL even though it does not go nearly as far as the group would prefer.

Finally, since today has been about gambling and gambling companies and game fixing, let me close with these words about problem gambling from comedian Artie Lang:

“You know you have a gambling problem when it’s 4:00 AM at The Mirage Sports Book and you’re walking around going, ‘Hey, you get the lacrosse scores?’”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



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