Here’s Bill Hupp on Mark Cuban’s first title…
On the night he won his first NBA Championship as owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban will be best remembered not for haranguing refs or delivering a controversial quote, but rather for a simple, classy gesture.
It would have completely understandable if Cuban had chosen to soak up a moment he had no doubt dreamed of, the time when his longtime nemesis, NBA commissioner David Stern, handed him the coveted Larry O’Brien Trophy. Instead, the current team owner nudged the original team owner to the forefront of the stage, insisting 78-year-old Donald Carter be the first to clutch the beloved hardware.
It seems almost ridiculous to insinuate that a man who is nearly 53 years old finally matured after more than a decade of owning his hometown team, but maybe “wisened up” is the more accurate phrase.
Ever the pot-stirrer, the thorn in Stern’s side, Cuban had gone noticeably silent during the playoffs, neither speaking to the media nor posting on his blog since April 12. The owner, like his team, came into the 2011 Finals flying under the radar.
These Finals presented fans with a paradoxical narrative. After all, with LeBron and company assuming the role of villains, Cuban became a sympathetic character. Here was an unpretentious owner willing to do anything to win, a guy more concerned with substance than style as he sat behind the bench rooting like hell in his t-shirt and jeans.
Oh, Cuban lived it up afterwards, basking in the playoff success that had eluded him like self-control so often does. He threw down $90,000 on a giant bottle of champagne and cradled the trophy in bed that night. But he is also being lauded for his generosity after he left a $20,000 tip on that bottle of champagne and offered to pick up the entire tab for the parade through Dallas.
Love him or hate him, Cuban is fiercely loyal to his employees, the players, coaches and executives he believes are championship material every year. Perhaps due to past playoff history, his Mavs were consistently picked against, even as the higher seed in the first round against Portland. But thanks to an epic scoring German, red-hot three point shooting, sound defense and masterful coaching, they prevailed and in the process, vindicated their renegade boss.
Ultimately, it was Phil Rosenthal, media columnist for the Chicago Tribune, who had the best (or worst, depending on your sense of humor) line of the night when he Tweeted, “You always knew Miami was a Cuban town.”
Bill Hupp is a freelance writer and PR professional living in Chicago. His work has appeared in publications like ESPN the Magazine, SportsBusiness Journal, Pro Football Weekly and Basketball News, and AdAge. Follow him on Twitter.