Why Jontay Porter will never play another game, for the Raptors or any other NBA team

The NBA banned Toronto Raptors big man Jontay Porter for life after investigating his connections to gambling improprieties
Jontay Porter, Toronto Raptors
Jontay Porter, Toronto Raptors / Rich Storry/GettyImages

Banned for life.

That was the verdict handed down by the NBA league office on Wednesday afternoon. Toronto Raptors two-way big man Jontay Porter was found guilty of what NBA Commissioner Adam Silver termed "a cardinal sin" for betting on NBA games, sharing inside information and directly manipulating his participation in an NBA game.

The NBA released the findings of their investigation into Jontay Porter

You can read more about the specifics of what the NBA's investigation uncovered about Porter and his actions. The investigation was triggered when highly irregular bets were placed on Porter ahead of a March 20th game against the Sacramento Kings. In particular, one bettor placed an $80,000 parlay bet on Porter's "unders" that would have paid out $1.1 million if Porter entered the game but exited before hitting thresholds in various box score categories like points, rebounds and 3-pointers.

That bet was flagged and the winnings withheld, but if it hadn't been it would have cashed out as Porter checked himself out of the game after three minutes of playing, claiming he felt ill. The league concluded that Porter deliberately took himself out of the game in order for that bet and others like it to pay out.

The findings of the investigation did not stop there, however. They also discovered that Porter himself bet on a number of games this season, including at least 13 bets on NBA games using someone else's online betting account. While he did not bet on any games that he played in, he did bet on the Raptors to lose in three different bets (and he was correct). In total, Porter's bets totaled $54,000 and he made $22,000 in net winnings on those bets.

The league responded with the harshest penalty available to them, a lifetime ban from the NBA. It matched the intensity and gravity with which Adam Silver spoke about the charges levied against Porter. Based on how the league has handled gambling penalties in the past and how Silver spoke on the topic, this was the expected outcome.

Why this lifetime ban is significant

This lifetime ban is a significant one, in that it will almost certainly be a lifetime ban. The league occasionally does hand out a lifetime ban; historically they did so for gambling and massive substance abuse issues, more recently for players who received multiple strikes in violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs or substance abuse.

What generally happens with recent "lifetime" bans is that a player sits out for a year or two and then applies for reinstatement. Jalen Harris, a bench guard for the Raptors, was banned in 2021 and reinstated in September of 2022. Tyreke Evans was banned in 2019 and reinstated a few years later. Chris Anderson was "permanently" banned in 2006 but reinstated two years later. O.J. Mayo was banned for life but became eligible for reinstatement and likely could have returned if an NBA team had been interested in signing him.

Jontay Porter is not going to be reinstated, no matter if and when he is deemed eligible to apply. What he did was not an infraction against the culture or image of the league, and it was not even an attempt to improve his own performance. By purposefully manipulating at least one game he played in and betting on others, he called into question the integrity of the game itself, and at some point a loss of integrity means a loss of the NBA.

That's the far-off endpoint that Porter is incapable of getting the league to, but it's why Silver is locking the gate at the start of that road rather than somewhere along it. His predecessors did the same in the 1950s and 60s when players were accused of point shaving or illegal betting in college; in every case but one, their lifetime bans stayed as lifetime bans. Players like Jack Molinas, Doug Moe and Roger Brown were banned and never played again in the NBA.

The one exception to a player banned for gambling is Connie Hawkins, who was linked to a point shaving scandal and had to sue the NBA to get reinstated. He was able to do that because there was little hard evidence against him; Porter would have no hope of doing the same. He did what he is being accused of doing.

Silver is making an example of Porter, and shaking a warning finger at the rest of the league. Gambling on NBA games or any attempted manipulation of game results will be met with a swift and powerful lifetime ban. More than just protecting the integrity of the game, Silver wants the discourse around gambling and the league's lucrative involvement in it to go away.

There are more answers waiting to be discovered or released; was Michael Porter Jr., Jontay's brother and member of the Denver Nuggets, involved? What other players are doing what Porter is doing? How can the league truly regulate and stop this activity, since the only reason Porter got caught (presumably) is that he got sloppy?

The Toronto Raptors would have liked to keep Porter around and develop him, but losing him is not a major blow. It certainly stings for Porter to have made money off of betting that the Raptors would lose games, but that's what this season was largely about.

Don't expect to see Jontay Porter back in an NBA jersey, ever. His basketball career will need to continue somewhere else.

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