Inside the tense and wacky NBA draft lottery room

9:20 AM ET

When people ask why I adore the lottery, my first thought is the basketball with the top cut out. The lottery is this ultra-serious thing that can alter the course of entire franchises, with elaborate rules, observing accountants and sequestered attendees who must hand over their phones and Apple watches.

It is also a human man plucking a ping-pong ball from a tube, and handing that ball to another human man who recites the number adorned on the ball. Repeat that four times, and you have a distinct four-number combination. That combination belongs to one of the 14 teams in the room. That team wins the lottery. Repeat the same procedure at least two more times to designate teams picking No. 2 and No. 3.

If the machine in which the balls bounce breaks down, the NBA has a contingency: dump all 14 balls into a basketball with a hole cut out of the top. A league official closes that hole, shakes the basketball, opens it up, and picks out the balls. The league has not

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