Gameballgate and the point that never happened
Adam Silver could have prevented the Giannis Antetokounmpo 'fracas.'
I want you to watch this clip and tell me what you see.
Do you an Indiana Pacers player making a free throw?
I see it, too. The ball goes through the net and everything. Over four million people saw it during Saturday’s In-Season Tournament championship. The free throw counted and trimmed the Lakers lead to 123-109. The Lakers would go on to win and Adam Silver handed the NBA Cup trophy to LeBron James. It was a whole thing.
OK, now that we have that established, I want to reveal something that blew my mind last night. The player in that clip is Indiana rookie Oscar Tshiebwe. He checked in with 90 seconds to go in Saturday’s game and got fouled in garbage time and made a free throw. It was the rookie’s first NBA point! It’s right there in the official NBA box score!
Here, lemme zoom in for you.
So, in the official box score — during the In-Season Tournament finale that was so important that it was broadcast on network TV and every player involved won hundreds of thousands of dollars — Tshiebwe scored his first NBA point. In the biggest game of the season!
Except, according to the official official record, it never counted.
None of it counted.
Everything that happened on Saturday night, it was erased from the record. Anthony Davis’ 41 points and 20 rebounds? You won’t find it on the NBA’s official game log for The Brow. Same goes for Tshiebwe’s point.
Why, you ask? Because Adam Silver and the league decided that the In-Season Tournament finale wouldn’t count. You read that right.
Here’s the In-Season Tournament 101 explainer on NBA.com:
The explainer doesn’t explain, so I will: counting the IST Finale stats would mean that the Lakers and Pacers would play 83 games instead of 82. The league felt that it wouldn’t be right for the Lakers and Pacers to have an extra game to pad their statistical totals. Or impact the year-end standings in a significant way. Or something.
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So the Tshiebwe point in the IST finale didn’t count. Even though you saw it, they saw it and we all saw it. Erased!
As a result, per Pacer tradition, the team retrieved the game ball and gave it to Tshiebwe to commemorate his first official official NBA point.
Because of that, Giannis Antetokounmpo nearly fought the entire Pacers team on Wednesday night because he wanted the game ball.
Because of that, an unnamed Bucks player might have broken the Pacers GM’s ribs with an elbow (according to coach Rick Carlisle).
Because of that, we are sitting here TALKING ABOUT BACKUP GAME BALLS.
It doesn’t feel like the game ball to me. This raises a larger existential question: if you have to beg for your game ball, is it really your game ball?
I can’t believe this happened. Think about it. If the NBA had treated the In-Season Tournament championship just like the rest of the tournament, which counted to regular-season totals, then the Pacers would not have considered Tshiebwe’s made free throw on Wednesday night to be his first NBA point. And the Pacers wouldn’t have snatched the game ball away from Antetokounmpo who scored a career-high 64 points in front of his home crowd.
This whole thing is so stupid and so funny. It just occurred to me that if Tshiebwe’s made free throw instead came two days earlier, in the less-consequential semifinal game AGAINST THE VERY SAME MILWAUKEE BUCKS, this would never have happened.
It would have counted and we wouldn’t have this photo, which was so dramatic that it caught the eye of the magnificentaccount:
Look, I still believe that the In-Season Tournament was a great addition to the NBA schedule. But the confusing loopholes have to be straightened out. Not counting the championship game’s statistics to a player’s total undermines the whole ordeal in a way. Hey, try to win this Cup we created out of thin air, but your first NBA point? Didn’t happen. Your 40-20-5? Vanished. Here’s a half million dollars to wipe your tears away.
Of course this tiny little schedule quirk had to bubble up into a giant controversy — or what Carlisle called a ‘fracas’ (a very enjoyable word to say out loud). Of course, it happened. This is the NBA.
Actually, you know what?
I take it all back.
Adam Silver did the right thing.
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