Raptors' player likely to be banned for life due to his own foolishness

2024 NBA All-Star - Commissioner Adam Silver Press Conference
2024 NBA All-Star - Commissioner Adam Silver Press Conference / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

There was a time when being banned from the National Basketball Association for gambling was commonplace.

A point-shaving scandal involving a number of college basketball players led to lifetime bans from ever playing in the NBA; some were even banned before they entered the league. Tony Jackson, Doug Moe and Roger Brown were all banned in the 1960s for a similar reason. Connie Hawkins was wrongfully banned for shaving points and had to sue the NBA to be reinstated.

Since 1966, however, no player has been banned from the NBA for gambling. 14 players have received lifetime bans for substance abuse, with eight of those successfully applying for reinstatement, the most recent being former Raptors guard Jalen Harris. No one has been banned for gambling in 58 years.

Yet one member of the Toronto Raptors could be close to adding his name to the list.

Jontay Porter could be next in line

Two-way center Jontay Porter has spent most of this season trying to reestablish his NBA career after a myriad of injuries has kept him from playing more than a handful of games here or there. He has shown real flashes of potential, combining rim protection, outside shooting and high-level passing. Porter, the younger brother of Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., appeared to be heading for a long-term spot in the league.

That all appears to be in jeopardy now. Porter has missed the past few games for "personal" reasons, and the NBA is investigating him following multiple instances of betting irregularities, per reporting by ESPN. It stems from two specific games where there was massive action on the "under" of various Jontay Porter prop bets (under on points, rebounds, assists and 3-pointers). Porter then checked himself out early in both games, one because he self-reported an eye injury and another because he self-reported feeling sick. Both games therefore delivered payouts on the under for each category, and massive payouts for those bettors who built parlays on multiple categories all hitting.

With the NBA leading the way for the legalization of sports betting and soon planning to add in-game betting (including prop bets) to NBA League Pass, this will only be a growing problem. Players in other sports leagues have faced suspensions for placing bets, such as Detroit Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams or former Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley, but those were for games they weren't playing in. Porter allegedly manipulated a game he was in, even if it was to remove himself rather than jack up shots or shave points.

Porter isn't a big name, but he could certainly be the fall guy to try and keep other players from dirtying their noses in this area. If Porter had real evidence to exonerate himself he would be fine, easy "fall guy" narrative aside, but it doesn't look like that is coming. If it was, one would think something would have come out already telling his side of the story.

Instead, his head coach Darko Rajakovic failed to back him up, simply acknowledging that Porter subbed himself out of both games. Porter's brother showed support for him in a general way but also didn't explicitly say Jontay hasn't done what he is accused of doing.

Can Porter explain this away?

The less damaging interpretation of events is that Porter was a bit too free about how he was feeling ahead of both games, someone in his inner circle took that information and used it to place bets. That seems barely within the realm of possible, and much more likely it's merely a theoretical hypothetical his camp tries to use to get him out of the worst possible consequences.

Much more likely? That a fringe NBA player who has been outspoken about his personal interest in gambling and finance leaked information to bettors to bang the under, then intentionally took himself out of those games. While he wouldn't have put his name on those bets, he likely utilized people close enough to him that the connections would be made.

The fact that Porter thought this wouldn't be insanely obvious and immediately caught is ludicrous. Why would anyone be betting on Jontay Porter props? Massive amounts of money being dropped on a two-way player on one of the league's worst teams was sure to be noticed.

If Jontay Porter had an alibi, an explanation for what happened, or incontrovertible proof that he wasn't involved, this could all blow over. He doesn't. There isn't even a real explanation that fits the facts and doesn't incriminate him.

It's possible Jontay Porter will receive a suspension set at a certain number of games, but it is much more likely that he will receive a lifetime ban. And unlike Connie Hawkins, Porter will absolutely deserve his. Foolish, sloppy circumvention of league rules that will result in the loss of his enitre career.

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