Sixers fan behind movement to end incentive to ‘tank’ for draft picks

 The Philadelphia 76ers play a game at their home court, the Wells Fargo Center. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The Philadelphia 76ers play a game at their home court, the Wells Fargo Center. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

It’s been a tough year for Philadelphia professional basketball fans — the 76ers record stands at 17-61.

“Tough” may be a huge understatement.  But some Sixer fans are trying to change NBA rules to discourage teams from “tanking” to get good draft picks.

South Jersey native Drew Cohen now lives in New York City, but he’s a lifelong Sixers fan. He said after the team’s tailspin, he’d had enough.

“After the 76ers 26th consecutive loss to the Houston Rockets, a buddy and I got into a heated arguments about the current state of the NBA lottery system and he decided to try to do something about it,” Cohen said.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

So Cohen and some friends organized a grassroots political-style campaign to push for reform. The NBArassing campaign aims to get 10,000 NBA fans to sign a petition to the league to end to the current lottery system for assigning draft picks.

Right now, the worse a team’s record, the more chances it gets to nab the number one player.

Cohen said it’s clear to many fans that the current system is broken.

“Fans are usually taken for granted despite the fact that they’re the bloodline of the teams. And we hope the ability for fans to organize around a singular issue amplifies their voice and actually leads to change,” he said.

Cohen said discouraging teams from losing would be good for the league, teams and the fans.

“We don’t fault front offices for taking advantage of the status quo and trying to increase their lot at having a higher draft pick and being better the next season. What we do take aim at though is a system that incentivizes losing and there’s something inherently wrong with that.”

The campaign proposes a number of alternatives to the current system. Fans plan to present their petitions to the league at the NBA draft in June.

Cohen pointed out that even fans of other NBA teams, even ones that aren’t losing, dislike the current lottery system. 

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal