Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has never been shy about his opinions. In fact, if you looked up “outspoken” in the dictionary, it wouldn’t surprise us at all if you saw the self-made billionaire’s picture right next to the definition: “frank in stating one’s opinions, especially if they are critical or controversial.” Cuban made headlines again this week during a Los Angeles radio interview, saying of the struggling Lakers, “Personally, I just hope they suck forever.”
It’s not the first time Cuban had something to say about the Lakers: In fact, far from it. Last year, the Mavs owner used L.A. star Kobe Bryant as an illustration in a different radio interview, wondering out loud if Los Angeles should consider using the NBA’s amnesty clause to dump Kobe and save money. (Bryant famously retorted with an “Amnesty THAT” tweet after playing 38 minutes and scoring 38 points in a win over Cuban’s franchise, a 12-character snippet that drew more than 53,000 retweets.)
In a more serious vein, Cuban got himself into hot water in 2003 when Bryant was charged with sexual assault, saying, “From a business perspective, it’s great for the NBA,” a sentiment that the league and then-commissioner David Stern vehemently disagreed with.
Since he bought the Mavericks in 2000, Cuban has made it his practice to say what he thinks. Nothing more, nothing less. In 2002, that meant calling out league referee Ed Rush by saying, “I wouldn’t hire him to manage a Dairy Queen.” (The ice cream chain got plenty of publicity from that remark, including Cuban working behind the counter at a local restaurant for a couple of hours.) In 2009, he apologized to Kenyon Martin’s mother after reportedly calling her son a “thug” or “punk” after a playoff game. Before Stern retired earlier this year, he had fined Cuban nearly $2 million over the course of his career, including one final fine (at Cuban’s request?) in January.
Of course, Cuban has had plenty to say outside of basketball, as well, such as his pronouncement in March that he believes “the NFL is 10 years away from an implosion.” That came only a couple of months before Cuban made waves by weighing in on racism and bigotry, telling a conference audience in Nashville (as relayed by the Tennesseean):
I know I’m prejudiced and I know I’m bigoted in a lot of different ways. If I see a black kid in a hoodie on my side of the street, I’ll move to the other side of the street. If I see a white guy with a shaved head and tattoos, I’ll move back to the other side of the street. None of us have pure thoughts; we all live in glass houses.
Whether talking about the Lakers or not, whether discussing basketball-related topics or not, whether you agree with him at all or not, one common thread runs through each of these well-known Cuban outbursts: The Dallas owner spoke his mind. And while there’s something to be said for tact, there’s also something to be said for honesty. We live in a day and age where 24/7 sports media become more and more desperate to get an interesting soundbite, which means players, coaches, general managers, and owners say less and less to make sure they don’t end up on SportsCenter for the wrong reason.
What’s worse is that only a portion of what these sports personalities do say is actually true. While Cuban could have benefited from filtering his thoughts more over the past 15 years, he does deserve credit over that same time span for understanding when an apology is in order and delivering one. At least we know where Cuban stands on a lot of topics, both inside and outside the NBA. That’s not exactly true of many other well-known sports celebrities.
Back to the most recent Lakers comment for a minute: Does anyone really think Cuban wants the purple and gold to be good anytime soon? Does anyone really think it would help Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks brand for the perennial powerhouse in Hollywood to land another superstar free agent and get back to the top of the league? So why is it news that he said what we all knew he was thinking? We’d rather hear that than a half-truth or tired cliché.
So keep being you, Mark Cuban. Say it like (you think) it is.