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Why do we hate tanking in the WNBA?

No one wants to lose games. But some teams may have no choice but to do so if they are to rebuild successfully.


There are a couple reasons that basketball fans, both in the WNBA and the NBA, dislike tanking and the teams that do it:

  1. Tanking lowers the overall quality of the product on the floor.
  2. All teams should try their hardest to win every game possible.

The first point is something that I believe that nearly every fan can be sympathetic with. Fans pay their hard-earned money to watch these teams play. When they do not see that, people believe that they are not getting their money's worth.

As for the second point, I feel that this is something that's desired in an ideal world. It also seems morally right to make sure that every team, regardless of their circumstances be as competitive as possible.

Though this is an altruistic ideal, there's also reality. Most teams in any professional sports league, let alone the WNBA, will not be competitive enough to win a championship. In addition, many teams aren't just playing just for any current season. They're also keeping an eye out for the future.

Some teams figure to be at the bottom, almost regardless of how hard they try to compete. Other teams may be just mediocre, or otherwise have a core that's aging if they really try to win as many games as possible. They may be looking at a future draft as a way to either break a mediocre spell, or perhaps extend a championship window. If and when these teams decide to play their chips on the hope for a major draft pick, it can rub the fans the wrong way.

We discussed many WNBA fans' displeasure with Phoenix Mercury's situation in 2012 when multiple players were injured, and sat out others which led to a 7-27 record, and the #1 pick in the 2013 Draft which they used to acquire Brittney Griner. With Griner, along with their existing core group of Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor, and Candice Dupree, the Mercury made two straight Western Conference Finals and won the 2014 WNBA championship.

The source of fans' displeasure with Phoenix was that in 2012, the Mercury had enough talent to be a playoff team, yet their best players weren't playing in a year before a big draft. The 2015 season comes before another potentially big draft in 2016 with UConn junior forward Breanna Stewart available: fans don't want to see a situation where another playoff caliber or better team appears to have a bad season in order to get the rights to draft her.

Believe it or not, I also don't like seeing a situation where a legitimately good team appears to be tanking for a superstar. That is the reason why even I myself hate the idea of tanking.

That said, tanking is often a necessary part of team rebuilding in American professional basketball. For some teams, it may really be the only way. This line of thinking is why teams that don't have any franchise star or don't figure to be relevant anyway are often better off losing games in the short run. This is so they can improve more quickly in the long run with high draft picks. That need to see uncompetitive teams get more talent in the draft, even if they have to tank to get there outweighs the risk of one of the league's top teams doing the same.

Now that I've thrown out a reason why I don't like tanking, now it's time for you to talk about this subject. What are some reasons why you hate it? Sound off in the comments below.