Boban, Jontay, and the NBA’s Very Telling Week

The National Basketball Association’s long and complicated relationship with legal sports betting had an informative few days last week.

Last Monday, East Coast social media woke to the story of a popular player intentionally failing to perform his best so he could produce a contrived outcome. This after telling future beneficiaries he would do so.

On Wednesday, the league announced that a previously nondescript player was banned for life for intentionally failing to perform his best to produce a contrived outcome. This after telling future beneficiaries he would do so.

This isn’t to say that Houston’s Boban Marjanovic tanking his second foul shot so the home LA Clippers fans could win a free chicken sandwich equates with Toronto’s Jontay Porter telling known gamblers he would pull himself out of games to secure the Under on prop bets on his stats.

Because it doesn’t.

NBA gambling scandal
Associated Press photo of Boban Marjanovic. Brant James illustration

Nearly completing the grand slam of NBA gambling forbiddens, Porter also bet on games against the Raptors at times and won around $21,000 before legal sportsbooks and regulators coalesced to discover him. If Marjanovic got one of those Chick-fil-A vouchers, there would be more outrage.

Probably not.

Hopefully not.

These two incidents should be considered together because of what didn’t happen. The kiln of outrage that is gambling Twitter and Discord could barely muster outrage over this most fowl shot. Yes, @BCakaTheMan was certainly agitated, but his screed about Overs and Unders in this benign Sunday night game was mainly met with derision and collective correction rare to social media.

That’s not to say that @d0wnsideofme didn’t have a good point. It’s a bad look if you’re looking. But it doesn’t mean it’s nefarious.

Moreover, a national business media that is ever one incident from posting a thinkpiece on the alleged corrosive state of play for sports betting in the United States simply saw a cute story—about chicken. The goofy and affable Serbian saw his legend grow, and a bunch of Clippers fans got a sandwich.

Who are we?

Martin Lycka, SVP of American Regulatory Affairs & Responsible Gambling, Entain, said the key difference between the two incidents was Porter’s “pattern of malfeasance.” Porter’s banishment was about incidents. Marjanovic’s foul shot romp was one incident. And sports being fun.

“My view is that the Clippers should have never put Boban or anyone else into this position,” Lycka told Gaming Today. “At the same time, to make it slightly circular, the teams should know better in this day and age and realize that what may appear to be an innocuous in-stadium promotion may have wider (and possibly nefarious) ramifications.”

NBA Pivots from Porter, Gambling Content Still Forefront

The NBA has moved on with business as usual, treating Porter’s as a piece of business that’s been completed using a system that performed flawlessly. That is crucial as its gambling partnerships continue to produce revenue, and the NBA needs to amplify the narrative that a legal, regulated sports betting market is positioned to root out players who might repeat Porter’s mistakes.

As industry observer Dustin Gouker noted in his The Closing Line substack: “If the NBA is going to rein in gambling promotion in the wake of the Porter incident and other negative news around sports betting, there’s not any evidence of that in the short term.”

If NBA players didn’t understand the league’s gambling rules before – inexcusable considering the amount of training the league and player union mandate – they certainly should now.

They’ve learned that perception matters, at least in terms of choosing words.

https://twitter.com/PropSwap/status/1781555592529592584?t=Nx1XOlGv1MnFztmrKRr6Ww&s=19

Porter has become a pariah and the nameplate for ignominy in the NBA, until the next scandal. There will be one because NBA teams are comprised of humans.

Weirdly, it’s important that there is another, if for no other reason, to prove the system works. And again demonstrating the difference between the truly horrid act of corrupting a sport for financial gain and giving ’em the chicken.

PLAYERTEAMYEAR BANNEDREASON
Ralph BeardIndianapolis Olympians1951Admitted to point-shaving as a collegian.
Alex GrozaIndianapolis Olympians1951Admitted to point-shaving as a collegian, with Beard.
Norm MagerBaltimore Bullets1951Admitted to point-shaving as a collegian.
Alvin Roth1951Banned before joining the NBA for his part in the CCNY point-shaving scandal.
Gene Melchiore1951Banned before joining the NBA for his part in the CCNY point-shaving scandal.
Bill Spivey1951Banned before joining the NBA for his part in the CCNY point-shaving scandal.
Ed Warner1951Banned before joining the NBA for his part in the CCNY point-shaving scandal.
Sherman White1951Banned before joining the NBA for his part in the CCNY point-shaving scandal.
Jack MolinasFort Wayne Pistons1954Banned for betting on his team in college. A former All-American at Columbia, Molinas had organized crime ties and his attempts to fix basketball games impacted the careers of several players on the NBA banishment list, notably including Connie Hawkins.
Tony JacksonNew York Knicks1961Banned for his participation in the 1961 NCAA University Division gambling scandal.
Doug MoeChicago Packers1961
Reinstated 1967
Banned for his participation in the 1961 NCAA University Division gambling scandal. He received $75 from a plotter to throw a game but he claimed never to have thrown games.
Roger BrownChicago Packers1966Banned for his participation in the 1961 NCAA University Division gambling scandal. He was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2013 for his play in the American Basketball Association.
Connie Hawkins1966
Reinstated 1969
A budding superstar, Hawkins associated with and accepted money from Jack Molinas, but it was never proved he repaid the favor by fixing games while at the University of Iowa. He never got the chance, actually, as freshmen did not play in varsity games in this period. Banned proactively by the university and NBA for his alleged but unproved participation in a 1966 points-shaving scandal, Hawkins filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the league claiming it had acted with insufficient evidence, was paid a cash settlement and reinstated in 1969. His performances in the ABA, American Basketball League and NBA earned him hall of fame enshrinement in 1992.
Jontay PorterToronto Raptors2024Betting irregularities at legal sportsbooks led to an investigation that revealed Porter had bet on NBA games, intentionally underperformed to manipulate parlays and provided inside information to gamblers.
About the Author
Brant James

Brant James

Senior Writer
Brant James is a senior writer who covers the sports betting industry and legislation at Gaming Today. An alum of the Tampa Bay Times, ESPN.com, espnW, SI.com, and USA Today, he's covered motorsports and the NHL as beats. He also once made a tail-hook landing on an aircraft carrier with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and rode to the top of Mt. Washington with Travis Pastrana. John Tortorella has yelled at him numerous times.

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