PRO: Right as Ryan: To Tank or Not to Tank

Apparently the next great American war is already upon us. Just this year, battles have already taken place in Memphis, Dallas, New York and Atlanta. No, I am not talking about combat, but rather the tanking warfare that has dominated the sports world for so long.

Most frequently done to the fullest in the NBA, tanking, or what some people may call “rebuilding,” has been a process that takes years of losing in order to acquire the best possible draft picks.

I know the concept of tanking sounds awful in a league built on competition, whether it be the NBA, NFL or MLB. However, when the bigger picture is taken into perspective, it’s the only course of action teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Indianapolis Colts and the current World Series champions, Houston Astros, could have taken in the past.

In sports, there always seems to be a dominant team that has a chokehold in their respective league. In the 90s, it was the Chicago Bulls. In the 2000s, it was the New York Yankees. Today, the Golden State Warriors occupy that spot, winning two championships in three years and reaching the Finals four three straight years.

So what does a struggling team do when it’s nearly impossible to win the ultimate goal in all of sports, a championship? Dwell in mediocrity and fail to make the playoffs for many years, or attempt to draw in free agents and trade partners with little to no chances of success?

Tanking is criticized and labeled as a method to kill your franchise’s culture, fanbase and competitiveness, but the same could be said for “rebuilding” franchises like the Sacramento Kings, who fail to reach the playoffs year after year. Aiming for a sub-par year for nearly a decade is a slow death with no hope in sight. Tanking, on the other hand, is the chance for a potential rebirth, with a top prospect who can the shape and culture of a franchise.

Most recognized as the posterboy of tanking is the 76ers’ all-star center and “Process” Joel Embiid. Embiid earned his nickname for coining the popular phrase, “Trust the Process,” which represented Philadelphia’s three-year slump in which the team accumulated both the worst record in the league and earned three top-three picks. Two of those picks gave the team star rookie Ben Simmons and Embiid. Since his debut in 2016 after two years of injuries and setbacks, Embiid has led the transformation of the team from a franchise in decline and struggling into one of the most exciting and competitive young teams in the NBA.

Fans may feel anger if their favorite team decides to go in this direction. What some fans may not understand is that the lengths management undergoes to ensure that the franchise can survive and thrive in the future, instead of barely staying afloat in the present. Tanking front offices know that they will be crucified by the league and many fans, but they are still willing to sacrifice their own careers to change organizations and push them to compete for championships.

Tanking can take away from the competitive edge of the game. But when the game is already unfair at the top of the hierarchy, then the bottom of the food chain should be allowed to play an unfair game, too. Trust the Process.