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NBA draft lottery: The seven picks that sparked the most tanking

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The NBA draft lottery is always a suspenseful event for basketball fans, as it determines the order of the draft and the fate of the teams. However, some teams are willing to sacrifice their current season and deliberately lose games, in order to increase their odds of getting the top pick in the draft. This strategy, known as tanking, has been controversial and divisive among fans and analysts.

Here are seven of the most coveted draft picks in NBA history, who caused several teams to tank for them.

1984: Hakeem Olajuwon
Olajuwon was a dominant center from Nigeria, who led the University of Houston to three consecutive Final Fours. He was highly sought after by many teams in the league, especially the Houston Rockets and the Chicago Bulls, who tanked hard for him. The Rockets won the lottery and selected Olajuwon with the first pick. The Bulls settled for Michael Jordan with the third pick, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as they built a dynasty with him.

1992: Shaquille O’Neal
O’Neal was a freak of nature, a 7-foot-1 behemoth who could run, jump and dunk like no other. He was a consensus number one pick, and 12 teams in the league tanked for him. The Orlando Magic got lucky and won the lottery, picking O’Neal with the first pick. He became an instant star and led the Magic to the NBA Finals in 1995. However, he left the team in 1996 and joined the Los Angeles Lakers, where he won three championships.

1997: Tim Duncan
Duncan was a rare combination of skill, intelligence and leadership. He was a four-year star at Wake Forest University, where he earned multiple awards and accolades. He was the clear-cut number one pick in 1997, and almost half of the teams in the league tanked for him. The San Antonio Spurs hit the jackpot and drafted Duncan with the first pick. He teamed up with David Robinson to form the “Twin Towers”, and won five championships under coach Gregg Popovich.

2003: LeBron James
James was dubbed as “The Chosen One” since his high school days, when he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He was a generational talent, who could play multiple positions and dominate the game. He was the unanimous number one pick in 2003, and several teams tanked for him. The Cleveland Cavaliers got lucky and won the lottery, picking James with the first pick. He became the face of the franchise and led them to their first championship in 2016.

NBA draft lottery: The seven picks that sparked the most tanking

2014: Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins was hailed as the next LeBron James, a versatile wing who could score from anywhere on the court. He was a one-and-done sensation at Kansas University, where he averaged 17.1 points per game. He was the projected number one pick in 2014, and eight teams in the league tanked for him. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the lottery again and drafted Wiggins with the first pick. However, they traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love, forming a Big Three with James and Kyrie Irving.

2019: Zion Williamson
Williamson was a human highlight reel, a 6-foot-7 powerhouse who could fly above the rim and dunk with ferocity. He was a sensation at Duke University, where he averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. He was the consensus number one pick in 2019, and nearly half of the teams in the league tanked for him. The New Orleans Pelicans won the lottery and picked Williamson with the first pick. He has been plagued by injuries so far, but he has also shown flashes of brilliance.

2023: Ben Van Yama
Van Yama is not even in the league yet, but he is already making waves. He is a 6-foot-10 forward from France, who can play inside and outside with ease. He is considered as one of the best prospects in recent years, and many teams are tanking for him. The San Antonio Spurs are leading the tanking race, as they traded away their only All-Star DeMar DeRozan, hoping to land their next franchise player after Duncan. The Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder are also tanking hard for Van Yama.

These are some of the most coveted draft picks in NBA history, who sparked tanking wars among teams. Some of them lived up to their hype, while others failed to meet expectations. Some of them stayed loyal to their teams, while others left for greener pastures. Some of them won championships, while others never reached that level.

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