Fall­ing Leaves

Newsweek International - - NEWSWEEK -

Sam Hinkie, gen­eral man­ager of the Philadel­phia 76ers, be­gan gam­ing the league’s draft. Hinkie traded vet­er­ans for draft picks, ditched high salaries and let his young Six­ers lose badly and of­ten in or­der to se­cure more high picks in the draft.

“Peo­ple hated what Hinkie did,” says O’con­nor. “Dude! I was do­ing that shit when I was 14 years old, in [Mad­den NFL]. I was do­ing that in 2K and NBA Live when I was a teenager. It’s noth­ing new to tank and get high draft picks and in­crease your as­sets and be able to open [salary] cap space. What is new is see­ing it hap­pen in real life.” There is one cru­cial difference here. In video games, a los­ing sea­son passes in a few min­utes of sim­u­la­tion, and you have many chances to fix things; there are no real con­se­quences. By wait­ing and ma­neu­ver­ing, you can stack a team with young tal­ent. In other words, it makes a ton of sense to tank in 2K. But Hinkie acted like a gamer; he didn’t throw the sea­son away af­ter hope was lost; he did it early, as a strat­egy, with­out wor­ry­ing about job se­cu­rity. Or his abused fans. Ul­ti­mately, he got fired for pur­su­ing the Ex­treme Tank, and the Six­ers haven’t won any­thing— al­though their ros­ter is now stacked with promis­ing young play­ers like Joel Em­biid, Ben Sim­mons, Dario Saric and Markelle Fultz.

You could ar­gue that with 2K, the NBA cre­ated a gen­er­a­tion of am­a­teur coaches and strate­gists who do the work for them. Still, there are lim­its to what a video game can do, no mat­ter how good the graph­ics or gameplay. It can im­i­tate the thing but can never

be the thing. That be­came clear in the gamer-filled, Man­hat­tan room when Mccol­lum de­scribed frus­tra­tion over not be­ing able to do his real-life moves in a video game—the ex­act op­po­site com­plaint of all the young men around him that day.

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