Mavericks’ Mark Cuban: Big College Money Boosting NBA

Mark Cuban, Mavericks owner

Getty Mark Cuban, Mavericks owner

Mark Cuban freely admits he bought the Dallas Mavericks in 2000 because he likes basketball and he’s a disruptor, and he believed the NBA needed some disrupting.

All these years later, he may not like where the Mavs are in the immediate sense, down 2-0 to the Celtics in the NBA Finals, but he’s more than happy with the league he still likes messing with on occasion.

Standing courtside at TD Garden, Cuban chatted and reminisced about a number of subjects, from his Cost Plus Drug Company (disrupting again) to the changing media landscape to Charles Barkley’s hilarious turn on “Shark Tank.” When it came time for, hey, let’s do a story, we long ago realized that sometimes it’s best to ask MC Maverick a question and let the river run, or at least meander.

Mark Cuban: NBA ‘Top of the Charts’

So, Mark, about the health of the NBA …

“Great. Top of the charts,” he told Heavy Sports. “I mean, it can’t be any better. You don’t have to worry about the WNBA; they’re killing it. College has got NIL, which, believe it or not, makes our job a lot easier for two reasons: It keeps kids in school longer, and, more importantly, they know how to manage their money.

“All those stories about players going broke? That ain’t going to happen no more, because by the time they get to the NBA, they’re obviously good enough, so they’ve already made money,” said Cuban, who made billions when he sold off a large portion of the Mavericks but retained 27% and control of basketball operations.

“They’ve already learned how to do a credit card. I mean, I remember my first year explaining to guys how a credit card works, how to open up a checking account … [expletive] that from where they came from that was all brand new. You know, you don’t get your uncle or your brother or a friend of a friend, you don’t get them to manage your [expletive] for you. Now they’re able to have agents when they’re in fifth grade. If they can get NIL money in fifth grade, more power to ’em.”

College Changes Benefiting League

Cuban is obviously exaggerating there — unless the elementary school kids are negotiating for more than just postgame Dairy Queen these days. But he’s very serious about now over-the-table money in college being a positive for the major league hoops.

“It puts the NBA in a much stronger position,” he told Heavy. “And I think that’ll also open the door for doing a lot of what soccer does in terms of performance centers and development programs. Because at some point, at least on the basketball side, they’re going to have to have a CBA (collective bargaining agreement), because right now it’s a race to the bottom in terms of spending money.

“So that’ll have to happen, and I think that’ll put us in a better position to do stuff — and I’m just speaking for myself obviously — but I think that’ll put the NBA in a better position to do partnerships in the United States and with teams overseas. Because college sports is professional. They’re the pros. College sports is as much the pros as the NBA, only they’re limited to four or five years.”

Money Still Dominates

Cuban and others around the NBA are still quite interested to see how the name, image and likeness money coupled now with the ability of schools to directly pay athletes will shake out. It’s very much a Wild West vibe — even to seen-it-all businessfolk like Cuban.

“You hear the stories,” he said. “I’ve talked to ADs and I’ve talked to [college] coaches, where it’s not tax deductible if I give money to [his alma mater] Indiana, which I haven’t. I don’t want to be in a position with the NBA. But if somebody wants to come in and be the big swinging [uh, something] and give $5 million dollars to a basketball or football program … let’s say you gave X amount of money to a football program for this great quarterback that they told you was the best quarterback ever, and the guy doesn’t play. That [money] guy is screaming at the coach, ‘I just gave you MFs $3 million dollars this year.

“What do I get? I get some guy who’s gotten one snap in the spring football game, and he’s telling people to come eat my tacos? For $3 million dollars, I could have given everybody a taco.’ Right?”

Cuban said he once heard from a coach who told him, “To get a backup center in the SEC is $150 grand a year — and this was two years ago.”

Mavericks, NBA Benefit From ‘Global Game’

As the discussion wound into the differences in the game over the last few decades, it was suggested the NBA has been best served by the influx of major talent from overseas (and, in the case of Canada, over-northern-border).

To this, Cuban quickly referenced the former commissioner and said, “Rest in peace, David Stern, man. That was all David Stern. I was wrong. Literally, I wasn’t a big proponent. I was of the attitude that all these countries, particularly China, always have a lot of potential and always will.

“But David was right on, using that to grow the sport around the world. He was prescient. He was a genius on it, and now Adam’s picked up the torch and carried it.

“I mean, we are the second largest global sport, and it’s not even close,” he continued. “And because of social media, other than the Messi-level soccer players, our guys are the biggest brands in the world. And that carries a lot, because kids today with social media, kids in the smallest countries are watching Instagram and Tik-Tok highlights of our guys. There’s a whole lot more athletic highlights, even than soccer, definitely than football or baseball or hockey. And we’re such a players’ league, that’s great for us globally. We have more influence than anybody else globally.”

It’s always been good to be Mark Cuban, perhaps no time more so than now — excepting, of course, that 2-0 Finals deficit thing.


Read More