THERE IS A
SIZABLE difference between Mark Cuban, Mavericks maniac, and Mark Cuban,
Mavericks owner. Good thing, huh? The first Cuban, who yells and screams and
acts as if every call that goes against Dallas is a crime against humanity,
freely admits that he recently announced to a few patrons at a Phoenix bar that
he was "the luckiest motherf--- on the planet." The second Cuban, who
made his money in the dot-com boom and is listed by Forbes as the 428th
wealthiest man in the U.S. (net worth: $1.8 billion), has forged, with his
outside-the-box thinking, what is arguably the NBA's model franchise, yet he
believes so strongly in the importance of all the league's markets that he
won't make a speech in an opposing city unless every member of his audience
promises to buy a ticket to that night's game. � As much as eye-rolling
traditionalists don't want to hear it, there is no denying this fact: Whether
or not his Mavs prevail in the Finals-they took a 2-0 lead over the Miami Heat
with a 99-85 victory on Sunday night in American Airlines Center-the
47-year-old Cuban has become the perfect metaphor for this NBA postseason:
wide-open, unpredictable and undeniably, wildly fun. There has never been an
owner who more vociferously expresses his feelings, more pugnaciously defends
his players or more conspicuously stands outside his team's huddle, ears
cocked, listening for ... what? "I'm just trying to learn," says Cuban.
Heat owner Micky Arison (net worth: $6.1 billion) may be able to buy and sell
Cuban, yet fans could sooner identify Shaquille O'Neal's haberdasher than the
56-year-old cruise-ship magnate.
Cuban lives to
connect. He sends his thoughts and theories hurtling into cyberspace, having
long ago become pro sports' first owner-blogger. He claims to have saved every
significant e-mail he has ever sent or received, including the one in which he
asked his future wife, Tiffany Stewart, for a first date. Hi, Tiff, this is
Mark from the gym ... remember me? (They went to Dumb and Dumber.) While Lakers
owner Jerry Buss watches games from his suite with sweet young things, Cuban
blabs and blogs from his front-row seat near the Mavs bench-Tiffany located
safely some 50 feet down the court-the picture of the Alpha Fan 24/7.
Posted: Jun 8,
2006, 10:25 PM ET
How are we ahead?
We have not played well at all. we took advantage of some mistakes they made,
but we need to push the ball more and take it stronger to the hoop. Which is
what I know [coach] Avery [ Johnson] is telling the guys right now. Lets hope we
can play better in the 2nd half.
cybermusings, such as the one above posted during halftime of Game 1 against
Miami, would hold little significance had he not transformed arguably the worst
professional franchise of the '90s-a decade in which Dallas went a horrid
199-507-into a potential champion. And though it might seem to some of the
squirming suits in the NBA office that he's run the Mavericks forever, he has
taken them from the trash heap to the Finals in just six years.
sat still for an interview with SI shortly before the Finals, talking about
spread sheets, "differentiated fan experience," game presentation and
revenue assistance for small-market franchises. "I get almost as much
satisfaction knowing I can have a positive impact on the league in general as
watching my team do well," he said. That's a stretch, but any fair-minded
observer would concede that Cuban has been a far more positive influence than
many of the established, corporate-style owners. It is beyond pass� to consider
Cuban and David Stern antagonists. The commissioner (below) still detests
Cuban's ref-baiting, but he appreciates how Cuban responds to his customers.
"Fans take that for granted ... that the arena experience should be a place
that [is] welcoming, [where] the fans [are] treated in a way that they deserve
to be treated," Stern said. "I think that here in Dallas, that is an
absolute, at the top of the list."
QUESTIONS I WOULD
ASK AND BLOGGING THE FINALS.