If you follow sports then you likely have an opinion on teams tanking, AKA, losing on purpose. It’s easy to dismiss this strategy as wrong or stupid or the total opposite of what a team should be doing. On its surface, it sucks for the fans and for the organization and seemingly for the players stuck playing on a team that is actively trying to dump games. BUT, what if all of those opinions are wrong? Or at least, misguided. This is where Jake Fischer’s book, Built to Lose comes in. Fischer talked to hundreds of people directly involved with the process in the NBA, from players to coaches to executives, to get to the bottom of what it’s like for a team trying to get to the bottom.
Fischer is a writer for the Bleacher Report and he’s giving us a sneak peak into where the idea came from and what it was like to write the book in this week’s Three Answers:
I first knew I wanted to write a book about tanking in the NBA from covering Sam Hinkie’s process-era Sixers for Liberty Ballers. Few things in life are truly polarizing, but from 2013-2016, it seemed everyone even remotely involved in the NBA either loved the strategy of tanking or hated it. The antithetical nature of losing games in a league predicated on winning, for the purpose of later competing, is just such a complicated concept and always will be.
Vivek Ranadive’s early years as team owner, trying to build a winner around DeMarcus Cousins, features some of the most shocking details in the entire book. The palace-intrigue within the Sacramento Kings, real back-door conversations and back-stabbing, it’s straight out of a TV drama. One spoiler: He ordered for an assistant coach to be fired, just as a warning to the team’s head coach, a reminder of who was actually in control of the franchise.
My favorite interview for the book was probably Channing Frye. The Phoenix Suns are a secondary storyline of this anecdotal history, but a really compelling one, largely because of the characters and personalities at play. Frye might be the most colorful of them all. He was vulnerable about a life-threatening heart issue and the long journey it took to get back on the court. Plus he provided unfiltered stories and memories about locker room scenes and interpersonal dynamics that are invaluable for any good piece of writing.
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Jon Finkel is the award-winning author of Hoops Heist, The Life of Dad, Jocks In Chief, The Athlete, Heart Over Height, “Mean” Joe Greene and more. His books have been endorsed by everyone from Mark Cuban and Tony Dungy to Spike Lee, Kevin Durant and Chef Robert Irvine. He has written for GQ, Men’s Health, Yahoo! Sports, The New York Times and has appeared on CBS: This Morning, Good Morning Texas, and hundreds of radio shows, podcasts and streams.