Losing to win: Tournament incentives in the National Basketball Association
Taylor, B. A., & Trogdon, J. (2002). Losing to win: Tournament incentives in the National Basketball Association. Journal of Labor Economics, 20(1), 23-41. DOI: 10.1086/323930
The focus of tournament models has been rank-order compensation schemes whereby participants receive higher payments for higher relative performance, either incrementally or winner-takes-all. Our research focuses on a unique tournament that offers rewards for both winning and losing, specifically the National Basketball Association's regularly scheduled season of games. We examine three NBA seasons to determine whether team performance responded to changes in the underlying tournament incentives provided by the NBA's introduction and restructuring of the lottery system to determine draft order. Our results yield strong evidence that NBA teams are more likely to lose when incentives to lose are present.