The Tiger kings of basketball
Three stories about the NBA, billionaires, and the pandemic.
BY HENRY ABBOTT
PART 1: Rocket Tiger King
I know you have already watched Tiger King. It’s OK. We all did.
A strange business tension runs through the series: For a just few weeks—when they’re about the size of house cats and like to snuggle—tigers are gold. People sit on the ground in big circles while tiny tigers roam from high-dollar customer to high-dollar customer. Tiger cubs are smuggled into fancy hotels in roller bags to cavort with gamblers. A party bus loaded with exotic cat babies can make a lot of money rolling up and down the Vegas strip.
So, breeding tigers makes solid business sense.
But, tigers live a long time. And they cost many thousands of dollars in food for every one of those years they’re alive. They grow less valuable but not less expensive. The show routinely suggests that some tiger keepers kill or “disappear” mature cats that have outlived their profitability.
It’s grotesque. (“Joe Exotic” is in prison for that and other charges.)
It’s also a portrait of one of my…