So the youngster went door-to-door—"Who doesn't need garbage bags?" he says—and learned the real meaning of money. He went to Indiana University and ended up in Dallas after graduation. By mid-1983 he had set up his own consulting business, MicroSolutions; CompuServe bought it in 1990, making Cuban a multimillionaire. He moved to L.A. for several years and in '94 returned to Dallas, where he wound up starting what would become Broadcast.com with Todd Wagner, a friend from IU. Yahoo! bought the company, and Cuban and Wagner made $1.2 billion apiece in stock.
Although he was driven during the buildup of the company—"I busted my ass," Cuban says. "Seven years without a vacation"—he does not share his fellow dotcom moguls' belief that success on such a surreal scale automatically belonged to them. "I'm the luckiest mother in the world," he says. He knew that the Internet boom was preposterous and artificial and that the bubble would burst. When he was finally allowed to sell his Yahoo! stock—there was a six-month waiting period for insiders—he diversified his holdings so thoroughly that he says, "Even if the stock goes to zero, there'll still be a big ol' B next to my name." Cuban knew it was time move on and do something else.
What he would do was buy his local team, the one he and his bachelor buds cheered for so lustily in the '80s, and retrieve it from its embarrassing state, in which it couldn't sell out a home opener. Things have been humming ever since. Recently the people from Oprah called and wanted to know if he'd like to be on the show. "Hell, yeah!" he said. What's My Line called. "Hell, yeah!" Walker, Texas Ranger? "Hell, yeah!"
In his office the phone rings from time to time, a G.M. from Utah or Golden State, or it's MJ. That's exciting, trying to hammer out a deal with MJ, something the fat kid in the Pittsburgh library never imagined. "Standing in the middle of Reunion Arena, introducing your team before a sellout crowd at a playoff game against the Lakers," Cuban says, "that would be a 'Hell, yeah!' Wouldn't it?"
MJ is on the horn again. "How do you like this G.M. stuff?" Cuban asks him. Then down to business, to selling, to doing what he does best: making dreams come true—his, everybody's, it hardly matters: "Listen, you're looking for a power guy? Can I help you? Can I help you?"
He props his shoes on a computer, and smiles. Hell, yeah!