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Jontay Porter Is The NBA’s Collateral Damage

Jontay Porter fights for a rebound
Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty Images

It was of immense help to Adam Silver that his test case for the downside of employee gambling was as disposable as Jontay Porter. The benefits of having a fringe player involved in betting that didn't create many ripples outside the lunatic fringe of the community was a clear godsend to the NBA, particularly given that Porter's most eye-catching transgression—facilitating prop bets on himself to not meet the minimums set forth by the books and then leaving a game after three minutes with an illness—was more comedic that dangerous. But the implied danger revealed in the NBA's investigation was sufficient for Silver to throw the book at Porter with a lifetime ban and not look quite so much like a hypocrite on the greater issue of gambling in this particular workplace.

The NBA says they discovered that Porter gave a heads-up to a known sports bettor ahead of the Raptors' March 20 game against the Kings, which caused another bettor with the information to play an $80,000 same-game parlay on DraftKings that included unders on Porter's stats. The $1.1 million in winnings, you may be pleased to learn, were not paid. The league also says that Porter, through a proxy, placed over a dozen bets on NBA games, which ranged from $15 to $22,000 and totaled $54,094. None of those bets were on games in which Porter played, per the league, but they did pay out net winnings of $21,965.

In all, this was a primer on the simplest pitfalls of a gambling scheme, starting with the part where the bookies alert your bosses about your suspicious activity, both for the Kings game and another that Porter left early on Jan. 26. Porter misunderstood the system on so many levels, including the fact that DraftKings works for DraftKings, and Adam Silver matters more to DraftKings than Jontay Porter ever could. It is thus hard to muster much of an argument on his behalf. He was the safest kind of prosecution in that way.

The greater issue for Silver, though, is not all the Jontay Porters out there trying to cash $15 bets to the detriment of both DraftKings and a 12th-place team that finished 11 games out of the play-in. It's not even that insider gambling stories tend to get larger in scope rather than smaller as time goes on. It's that Silver was the first to sing the praises of gambling as a revenue stream, and the danger being dumped at his doorstep is now clearer than ever. "It can't happen to us" is always a fallacy, especially at the levels of money we're talking about now, and Silver's suggestions about what the NBA release termed "important issues about the sufficiency of the regulatory framework currently in place, including the types of bets offered on our games and players" indicate that the magnitude of potential exposure is more than he realized when he first began pitching sportsbooks as patrons.

On the other hand, nearly everybody else in the betting chain is getting paid, except of course for the average schmucks on the app. That's how the system Silver envisaged is meant to work, even if it means the occasional Jontay Porter expulsion.

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