There are a lot of people happy about the Dallas Mavericks victory over the Miami Heat to clinch the NBA title. And I don’t mean just in the Dallas area, I mean nationwide. I mean a lot. Judging from the overall reaction (in person and on the internet), I don’t think the mood of this country has been so self-satisfied since the days after Obama sanctioned the Bin Laden hit. Outside of South Florida, America thoroughly enjoyed how these NBA Finals turned out.
As they should as there was so much to enjoy. It was an entertaining matchup that produced four excellent games, one a classic (Game 2). The Mavericks earned the first NBA title in their 40-year history. Dirk Nowitzki solidified his place as one the great players in NBA history. JJ Barea skittered around the court like a water bug. Jason Kidd fina………ahh, who am I kidding? The reason everyone is so pleased is because LeBron James lost.
Not only did LeBron lose, but he turtled in the final minutes of the last four games, including the embarrassing home elimination. Not only did LeBron lose, he was thoroughly outplayed (and at one point chewed out) by his “sidekick” Dwyane Wade. Not only did LeBron lose, he put forth a shockingly timid, confused performance.
Less than a year after the Decision and the Big Three’s obnoxious rock-star arena signing celebration, James and his Heat’s dreams of an insta-title vanished in high definition. And in a glorious fit of douchy petulance, James would later twitter that God didn’t want him to win yet and in a press conference insinuated that people happy about his loss will have to return to their shitty lives. It was the final cherry on top of the schadenfreude sundae and everyone from Cleveland to Connecticut is digging in. Heartily. Heck, I’ve had some too.
But I ask that everyone lift their heads up from their gluttony for a moment to acknowledge the other wonderful result of the Heat’s humiliation. Mark Cuban, the best owner in sports, finally got a championship.
There are so many shitty owners in sports right now. Dan Snyder, Donald Sterling, Mike Brown, James Dolan, Frank McCourt, it seems like there’s nothing but arrogant incompetent despots who do not care about the fans. But there are wonderful owners out there who do get it. Who not only field competitive teams and make a profit, but work to make going to their games enjoyable, affordable experiences for their customers. Artie Moreno, owner of the LA Angels; Mike Illitch, owner of the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings; the Rooney family, owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Mark Attanasio of the Milwaukee Brewers are on that list. But Mark Cuban is heads and shoulders away
the owner most sports fans would want running their team.
Cuban, the self-made dot com billionaire, took over a moribund franchise in the Mavericks in 2000 and has spent lavishly on the franchise, not just the players but the little things, like the locker rooms and training facilities, to make Dallas an attractive place to play. He changed the culture and made the Mavs a winning organization (they’ve made the playoffs every year in his tenure). He’s active in team operations but not to an excessive degree. He interacts with the fans, taking suggestions and responding to their emails.
He’s taken his role as number one fan seriously, visible at courtside, and thus has become a bit of a celebrity, appearing on TV. This has given the organization an actual personality. Some of his actions have gone over the line, but at the least they were entertaining. Cuban once publicly stated that the NBA manager of officials couldn’t manage a Dairy Queen. After the company complained about his comments, Cuban accepted an invitation to run a local Dairy Queen for a day for lines of customers.
You got to love stuff like that. Mark Cuban gets it.
Being a thorn in David Stern’s side with his criticisms of the league reflects another admirable side of Cuban which sets him apart from his contemporaries. Cuban possesses a libertarian streak that has him front and center questioning policies he doesn’t agree with. He’s been the only owner actively criticizing the NBA refereeing problems, even before the Tim Donaghy scandal. For his complaints, he’s been fined over a million dollars, all which he put to charity. This isn’t confined to basketball either, using his position to fund a website Bailoutsleuth to track the flow of the illegal TARP bailout of Wall Street. He funded a movie, Redacted, about the rape, murder and burning of an Iraqi family by US soldiers which you can imagine wasn’t an incredibly popular way of presenting our endless Middle Eastern adventures. Lest you think he hates America, he also started the Fallen Patriot Fund for families of Iraq war fallen and injured.
Cuban has tried to purchase teams in other sports to no avail despite his track record, or perhaps because of it. He tried for hockey’s Pittsburgh Penguins before they stayed with Mario Lemieux’s ownership group. His bid for the Chicago Cubs didn’t make the final bidding round and Cuban had the highest bid for the Texas Rangers, yet lost them a strange courtroom auction. If you think Cuban’s outspokenness and willingness to question the system weighed in the minds of those that run the owner’s membership process, you wouldn’t be alone. An owner that would likely make the team he bought successful, profitable and their fans happy? Nah, he’d actually step out of line and point out the league’s flaws. Can’t have that.
I mean, can you imagine Cuban being quiet and toeing the company line during this ludicrous football lockout if he owned a team? Yeah,
exactly. That’s why the faces of Selig, Goddell and Bettman don’t exactly light up when Mark Cuban is mentioned.
In the 2006 finals, his Dallas Mavericks blew a 2-0 lead to the Miami Heat as referees gave Dwyane Wade around 865 (est.) fouls calls to tip the scales. Cuban was again fined $250,000 for his criticism of free throw disparity. The bitterness of that missed opportunity has haunted him and his franchise as conspiracy whispers about that series still to this day swirl around the league. Phil Jackson even stated his belief in such two months ago, saying about the 2006 Finals “I think he (Cuban) understood there’s kind of a pecking order in this league and you keep your mouth shut at times.”
Based on his behavior during his team’s championship run, I would offer to Mr. Jackson that Cuban has indeed learned to “keep his mouth shut at times”. Never one to shrink from volunteering his opinion, Cuban nonetheless stayed quiet and kept his courtside antics muted from the first round on. He stayed in the background. And his team won. Finally.
So you can imagine how it’s must’ve felt for Mark Cuban, after the screw job, the fines, the shunning, to earn this title against the team that beat Dallas five years ago. You would think that he’s be frothing at the mouth to final get the chance to receive that trophy from David Stern. Only he didn’t. Cuban insisted on Stern first presenting the trophy to Donald Carter, the original owner of the Mavericks 40 years ago. You would think that he’d storm the court and start breakdancing on the Heat logo. He didn’t. Cuban stayed humble, for him anyway, keeping his digs to a minimum and only cursing once on ESPN.
They’re having a parade in Dallas Thursday for the Mavericks. You would think that the city will pay for the cost of the party. They’re not. Mark Cuban is going to pay for it, saying he didn’t think it right for the city to have to pay for it.
That’s because he’s the best owner in sports. He gets it.