The 14 ping pong balls behind the No. 1 pick -

The 14 ping pong balls behind the No. 1 pick

The Houston Rockets are already guaranteed to win a top-five pick in the 2022 NBA draft lottery, but their exact fate — and that of the other 13 lottery teams — rests with the 14 ping pong balls that will be drawn from a cast acrylic mixing chamber on Tuesday night.

NBA executives aren’t waltzing into a sporting goods store to purchase ping pong balls for the lottery, which will take place at 7 p.m. in Chicago. In fact, you can’t find these balls anywhere else because they are specially made by Smartplay International, the company that has leased lottery equipment to the NBA since 1997.

As high-stakes drawings go, there is immense responsibility in overseeing the process that determines which NBA team will land the coveted No. 1 pick, said Tom Markert, president of Smartplay International.

“You think about everything that’s involved with the NBA and you’re talking not only about people’s passion, but there’s also a lot of money involved, too,” Markert said. “So people want to make sure that it’s a very fair process.”

Smartplay provides lottery drawing machines and drawing balls for the majority of the world’s lotteries, including Powerball, Mega Millions, the National Lottery in the United Kingdom and the Hong Kong Jockey Club. The WNBA and NHL are clients, too.

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