On Tuesday night, several NBA executives got together for a truly momentous event: the tiebreaker to determine draft order among teams that finished with identical records.
The tiebreaker is not to be confused with the draft lottery, which establishes the order for the 14 worst teams. This is simply for breaking ties, a task that apparently requires a 14-minute long televised ceremony with all the pomp of a fourth-grade spelling bee.
The whole thing is oddly hilarious.
Let’s break it all down:
0:30: It takes very little time for an obvious question to come to mind: Who the hell is watching this? The event aired on NBA TV, concurrent with actual NBA playoff games. Imagine being an NBA fan who would rather watch a tiebreaker for the 24th pick in the draft than the league’s postseason. This event is for diehards, people who lost their remotes and Knicks fans.
2:02: Here are the ties we’ll be breaking this evening:
2:52: Ernst & Young is here to protect the sanctity of this event. Apparently Pricewaterhouse was unavailable.
3:16: They’re using ping pong balls. Why does the NBA love ping pong balls so much? Why can’t we just flip a coin in a back room and call it a day?
3:52: The ping pong balls are kept in a brief-case because you can’t have a faux-important event without a secret briefcase.
4:08: Welp, it looks like we have to watch this guy hold up every single individual ball, wait for the camera to cut to a close-up then cut back out to a wide shot, so we can both verify the logos on the balls and see him drop them in. This video says the event will take 13:52, but at this rate it could be a couple hours.
4:36: The music in the background sounds like a cross between the old WatchESPN commercial music and the soundtrack to the worst ever Tom Cruise action movie.
5:03: You can only wonder what’s on these folks’ mind as they stand around waiting an unreasonably long time for a needlessly sophisticated contraption to spit out a ping pong ball with a hopelessly unimportant result.
5:18: The Clippers won a four-team tiebreaker, and Kiki Vandeweghe, himself a former Clipper, announced the result with all the excitement of an actuary discussing his daily routine.
5:26: It’s a little disappointing the teams in this tiebreaker don’t have to dispatch representatives to the event. Who would they send? Their 13th man? A former player you have to Google? An executive who fetches coffee?
5:52: Naturally, the Clippers won the tiebreaker a second time, meaning another spin of the ping-pong doohickey. Host Sarah Kustok (who doesn’t actually work for NBA TV—apparently everyone there was busy covering actual basketball) instructs us to “ignore that ball.” Done.
6:44: Of course, many of the teams listed on the balls don’t actually get the picks they’re being awarded, having traded them away. Those teams realize what the people producing this tiebreaker show don’t: These picks are not very important.
7:51: It’s worth noting that no one—not the host, not the dude putting the balls in the doohickey, not the dude taking the balls out of the doohickey and certainly not the silent accountant woman—has smiled in the nearly eight minutes this has been going on.
8:58: OK, that was unfair. Kustok kind of smirks when she’s on camera, but you can tell that internally she’s counting down the days until she’s big enough to cover the lottery.
11:58: Here comes a tiebreaker between the Timberwolves and Knicks for the sixth position in the lottery. This one actually kinda sorta matters!
12:53: “Both teams own a 53 out of 1,000 chance to move up to the No. 1 pick.” There Knicks fans, you have something to cling to.
13:04: Hold on a second. Why did the video cut away before the Timberwolves’ ball popped up, preventing us from actually seeing it emerge from the machine? CONSPIRACY!!!! THE NBA HATES THE KNICKS!!!!
13:10: The 1985 lottery has officially been avenged.
13:33: “The NBA Draft lottery will take place on May 16 in Manhattan, while the NBA Draft is set for June 22 in Brooklyn. I’m here in Secaucus, and I need a new agent.” – Kustok’s internal monologue.
13:44: Well, that’s it for the tiebreaker procedure, but tell me you wouldn’t watch this sitcom:
13:52: Our final count: four tiebreakers, zero smiles, zero words from the accountant woman, one mention of the trade that sent Jusuf Nurkic to Portland and Mason Plumlee to Memphis, zero actual basketball.