Jontay Porter Won’t Be The Last Of His Kind. You Can Bet On It.

You’re forgiven if you hadn’t previously heard of the Toronto Raptors’ reserve center Jontay Porter.  Unless you happen to a member of the team’s ardent and again-suffering fan base in the 905 and/or 416, or unless, like me, you caught him in action randomly when the team was awaiting the Knicks they acquired in the OG Anunoby trade and he actually got a few quality minutes.

Or, like him, you might be a compulsive, arguably degenerate gambler.

And if you happen to be that, it’s pretty damn obvious that the NBA really wants you to watch and engage with them.  This is an actual clip of what Turner Sports offers as its alternate telecast on what will soon not be truTV and on the MAX app, as do several regional sports networks, including MSG.  Not to mention the incessant commercials and sponsorships that the likes of DraftKings, BetMGM and FanDuel offer during the broadcasts.  All the better if you’re a twenty-something male– that ever-elusive high CPM demographic–and happen to have some disposable income to boot.

Pretty much how you would have described Jontay Porter.  At least until yesterday, when CNN’s Ben Morse helped make him a far more recognizable and notorious name:

The NBA has banned Toronto Raptors player Jontay Porter from the league after an investigation found that the 24-year-old had violated betting rules, the league said.

The league announced in March it had opened an investigation into anomalies involving bets pertaining to Porter after unusual betting patterns around the player emerged.

The NBA said its investigation found that Porter had “violated league rules by disclosing confidential information to sports bettors, limiting his own participation in one or more games for betting purposes, and betting on NBA games.”

Additionally, the league also found that Porter placed at least 13 bets on NBA games between January and March this year.

The bets totaled $54,094, ranging from $15 to $22,000, with the total payout being $76,059, resulting in net winnings of $21,965.

While Porter was not involved in any of the games in which he bet on, there was a series of bets on a Raptors game in which he predicted that Toronto would lose. All three bets were unsuccessful.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver is being applauded by many for this swift action of finality, which assures Porter’s NBA log line will never exceed the 37 games, 137 points and 3.7 ppg average he contributed to the Raptors’  just completed and playoff-less 2023-24 season.  Then again, with stats like that on a team as marginal as the Raptors, there was no guarantee he might have continued that career anyhow.

I’m not clapping all that enthusiastically.  Because there are many, many more “two-way” (a.k.a. fringe) players out there, good enough to make the NBA but hardly secure.  From families and backgrounds that could be considered, well, as more complicated than Jontay Porter’s.  As NBA CANADA’s Kyle Irving uncovered, older brother Michael, Jr. is a key member of the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets, but one of his younger brothers, Coban, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in a DUI crash that killed a 42-year-old woman. In February 2024, (h)e will be sentenced to “no more than eight years in prison.”

As The ATHLETIC’s Jim Trotter opined this morning:

(T)his was all so predictable. Leagues and team owners knew this type of behavior was not only possible but inevitable when they jumped into bed with organized gambling. History has taught us — and continues to teach us — that people always believe they can cheat the system, that they can catch the watchdog napping. It’s called human nature.

Porter likely is not the only one to engage in such behavior; he just happens to be the one who got caught. Pro sports leagues and their owners have no one to blame but themselves for placing more value on maximized revenue streams than the pious “integrity of the game” mantra they recite in these types of situations.

Trotter attempts to make the argument that toughening standards and doubling down on this is necessary, but even with that determination it takes on an apologetic tone.

(M)ajor professional leagues need to find a way to better protect the integrity of their games, and one way is to adopt a uniform, zero-tolerance policy when it comes to employee wagering. Could they impose such a rule? Several labor attorneys told me Wednesday it’s open to interpretation. They contend that leagues have the right to impose workplace rules and policies, but any discipline would likely have to be collectively bargained because it would impact the terms and conditions of employment.

But what’s done is done. The clock isn’t going to be turned back. Sports leagues and players, who share gaming revenues as part of their collective bargaining agreements, are not going to turn off the financial spigot, and media outlets such as The Athletic and ESPN (which has launched its own business with ESPN BET) now view their partnerships with gambling sites as expected sources of revenue.

And as more and more people like myself discover exactly who Adam Lefkoe is, and what he does when he’s not being the heir apparent for Ernie Johnson on Inside the NBA, the greater the likelihood that the next Jontay Porter is being groomed for the same level of addiction.

It’s probably a good thing my financial state of affairs is in far worse shape that Jontay Porter’s is.  Even I’d be willing to risk a few bucks on the likelihood someone else will soon join him in ignominy.



Share This Article