Why I Enjoy the NBA Draft Lottery

Technically, the NBA Draft Lottery shouldn’t be that interesting. It’s just to determine the draft order, which in other sports leagues means nothing. But due to the abundance of draft picks that get traded in the league, and the outrageous percentage of which end up being misguided and/or horrible, drama naturally ensues. So of course it must be televised. Here’s why I can’t help but watch every year.

PDED: Public Displays of Existential Dread

Due to ill-advised trades that may have happened half a decade before or even the doings of a previous management regime, the consequences that come from these ping pong balls could set back a franchise for years to come. And an unlucky sucker has to represent the entire organization and react like everything is fine, we’re not worried, no seriously, just stop pointing that camera at me.

This year, it was Mitch Kupchak on the dais for the Los Angeles Lakers, who would lose their pick if it landed outside the top three. The odds of that were nearly 44%. That’s terrifying, and Kupchak showed it. Beautiful.

Mark Tatum’s Smile

It looks as if he’s thinking “did I do good?” every time, like a puppy presenting you a dead bird, and he holds it for just a half-second longer than would be comfortable.

He seems like a nice guy who means well. Would he have smiled that like if the Lakers lost their pick or if Philadelphia dropped to 4th? I’m bummed we couldn’t find out.

Important People Act Relieved At Not Screwing Up

Look at Kupchak after the envelopes had been opened and he discovered he was safe.

Pure bliss. Like he had been playing Russian Roulette and came out alive. Which is essentially what the lottery is. You’re gambling with your (basketball) life, and you have no choice but to play along. I can’t blame the guy for his world’s most silent celebration.

Steel-Faced Dejection

You hate to see it happen, but you damn sure ain’t looking away. The representative refuses to look sad or disappointed, and their face nearly bursts from the emotion trying to escape. Think Jerry West when he not only lost out on LeBron James, but lost his pick in the draft entirely. Gut-wrenching. The self-control it takes to not just flip that podium 16 feet in the air is admirable.

The ESPN Commentary

I’m not even sure who the announcer was, and really it doesn’t matter. Hearing him rush little comments over the air to kill the few seconds it takes for Tatum to finish smiling makes me giggle every time. They’re like the NBA equivalent of Snapple facts, only usually less pertinent or useful. Like giving us an Anthony Davis stat line after the Pelicans’ card was opened heightened our viewing experience at all. Talk about how the NBA rigged the 2012 Draft Lottery so the Pelicans could take Davis instead, please.

And that’s a main reason why this is must-see TV. By opening up the process to the world and making it a spectacle, the NBA is a) monetizing a routine league procedure and b) supposedly showing transparency to a process that has been called into question before. They now invite reporters into the room where the actual ping pong balls are drawn, and open envelopes for the first time live on broadcast.

But the reporters don’t really talk about what goes on, and there’s still just enough we can’t see that makes us curious. The team that the league would most obviously want getting the first pick actually getting it year after year adds to that mystery as well. But the league just doesn’t care. We’re watching. And any conspiracy theories hatched by crazies like me can be dismissed as, well, conspiracy theories.

They’ve suckered me in. They’ve suckered us all in. And I don’t mind one bit.

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