Saturday, May 20, 2006

A Jerk By Any Other Name

No matter how the current playoff series between the Spurs and Dallas Mavericks turns out there are some things of which I will be certain:

1. The Spurs are a class organization from top to bottom.
2. The Mavericks are a very good basketball team.
3. Mark Cuban is a jerk and he tarnishes the Mavericks image.

There was a time when I admired Mark I think he's an himself.

He was always an entrepreneur it seems. Years ago, he and a friend capitalized on a newspaper strike in Pittsburgh by snagging newspapers from Cleveland and then reselling them in Pittsburgh. That story is in his official biography on They summarize it by saying he "imported" newspapers from Cleveland. In a Fox Sports biography I watched, Cuban admitted he and his buddy actually went to Cleveland and raided the newspaper vending machines...paying for one paper, taking all of them, and then they sold them for full price in Pittsburgh. I remember how he smiled as he recounted the story as an example of his financial savvy. If you spell success with a dollar sign...Mark Cuban fits the bill - pardon the pun.

Yeah, he's a $uccess.
In my opinion he's an ethical failure, but you can do your own research and judge for yourself. I do know since Cuban has been owner of the Mavericks he has spent a fortune, he has energized the fan base, and he has made a spectacle of himself...often.

And his Mavericks have always been losers.

You'd be hard pressed to find anyone outside of San Antonio who knows the name of the Spur's majority owner. He's a quiet man whose delegated the business of basketball , for the most part, to people he trusts know more than he does. Although he has insisted the Spurs look for certain qualities in their players... primarily that they be decent people who won't embarass themselves, the team or San Antonio.

The Spurs have won three championships since 1999.

Monday night, the Mavs and Spurs will square off for game seven in their NBA Western Conference semi-final series. The winning team advances to the Western Conference finals, the loser goes home. It appeared for a while that the Mavericks would win this series it's not so certain.

As the series tightened, the true character of Mark Cuban started to show itself a little more - if that's possible.

He spent the past week criticizing the referees, blasting league officials for suspending a Dallas player for punching Michael Finley in the groin after the league examined video of game 5 - for the record Cuban was the first owner in the league to hire videographers to make tapes of the referees and send them to the league office to document his many complaints about how his team was being treated unfairly.

He belittled San Antonio calling The Riverwalk - the number one tourist destination in Texas - an "ugly-ass, muddy-watered thing."

He didn't reserve his childish name-calling to tourist destinations, he went so far as to refer to Tim Duncan - arguably the most even tempered player in the league as a "cry-baby." And to top it off, Cuban went to an extreme even some of his sober fans (if he has any) would have a hard time stooping to...he encouraged Mavericks' fans to "boo" Michael Finley.

Michael Finley, for those of you not familiar with the NBA, played for nine years in Dallas...for Cuban. He was the heart and soul of the Mavericks and never acted in a manner that was not professional. He was a credit to the team, and to the city. Last year, Cuban cut him to save himself 51-million dollars. Finley - who admittedly didn't lose a dime on the deal - walked away without one harsh word.

Despite Cuban's antics, the Spurs have said nothing during this time except the usual sports banter, "Our backs are against the wall", "We're still in this thing...", etc. Well, Michael Finley did say one thing in response to Cuban encouraging Dallas fans to boo him. Finley said, "I thought I did a lot for this organization, but I guess that doesn't matter."

On Monday night, it will be over. I obviously hope the Spurs win, but they may not.

If the Mavs win, you can bet Cuban will take as much credit as he can...if the Spurs win you can bet Cuban will find someone to blame.

Either way, he'll get his name in the newspaper...hopefully he won't have to steal a copy.