SI:AM | Jontay Porter Won’t Be the Last NBA Betting Scandal

This is what happens when gambling becomes more widespread.
NBA bans Raptors’ Jontay Porter for gambling on his own games.
NBA bans Raptors’ Jontay Porter for gambling on his own games. / Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
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Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I can’t believe Coby White of all people had 42 points in the Bulls’ win last night.

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They made an example out of him

The NBA announced Wednesday that Toronto Raptors center Jontay Porter has been banned from the league for life due to gambling violations.

Porter is alleged to have bet on at least 13 NBA games, according to the league’s investigation, including three multi-game parlay bets in which he bet on the Raptors to lose. Porter did not play in any of those games and all three bets lost, the league said. 

The biggest revelation from the league’s investigation involves a game played on March 20 against the Sacramento Kings. The league said Porter “disclosed confidential information about his own health status to an individual he knew to be an NBA bettor” before the game and that another bettor Porter knew then placed a bet on Porter to underperform in the game. Porter only played three minutes in the game before taking himself out complaining of an illness. Porter’s associate’s wager was $80,000 and would have paid out $1.1 million if successful. The bet was flagged as suspicious by “licensed sports betting operators and an organization that monitors legal betting markets,” the league said, and was not paid out.

There still might be more information to come about Porter’s involvement in gambling. The league said that its investigation is ongoing and “may result in further findings.” When the NBA first confirmed that it was looking into Porter, it was reportedly examining not only the March 20 game but also a game on Jan. 26, when Porter played less than five minutes before leaving with what the Raptors said was an aggravation of an earlier eye injury. The NBA’s announcement on Wednesday did not include any mention of the Jan. 26 game.

Porter is the first player in almost 60 years to be banned from the NBA for gambling offenses, and it would be naive to think he’ll be the last. People have always gambled on sports, but the proliferation of legalized sports betting has made it easier than ever to place bets. More opportunities to bet means more opportunities to place improper bets.

The strict penalty against Porter may be enough to deter other players from getting involved with gamblers, but there’s no guarantee that all NBA players will be scared straight indefinitely. Gambling addiction can make people do irrational and increasingly risky things. Just look at Ippei Mizuhara, Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter, who now faces a maximum of 30 years in prison after allegedly stealing $16 million from Ohtani to cover gambling losses. NBA rules don’t explicitly prohibit players from betting on sports other than basketball, so it isn’t difficult to foresee a situation where a player racks up big losses betting on other sports and attempts to get out of the hole by manipulating the results of NBA games.

The NBA is lucky that its first major modern gambling scandal involved an anonymous player on a terrible team. It would have been a much different situation if it had involved a player fans had actually heard of or a team in the playoff hunt. No one will miss seeing Porter on the floor in NBA games—except the gamblers who benefited from his collaboration.

Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy throws a pass vs. Washington in the national championship game.
J.J. McCarthy (9) is projected to be a first round pick in next week’s NFL draft. / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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Dan Gartland


Dan Gartland is the writer and editor of Sports Illustrated’s flagship daily newsletter, SI:AM, covering everything an educated sports fan needs to know. Previously published on Deadspin and Slate, Dan also is a former Sports Jeopardy! champion (Season 1, Episode 5).