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December 06, 2001

Outtakes: Mark Cuban (uncut)

A condensed version of Dan Patrick's interview with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban appears in the April 16 edition of ESPN The Magazine.

Dan Patrick: What will the Internet mean to us in 2010?
Mark Cuban
Who's on Mark Cuban's mind? Bill Veeck, Bob Knight, Liz Hurley and Denise Richards.
Mark Cuban: The Internet won't exist as a separate medium in 2010. Just like we don't look at electricity as being a separate business and we don't think of the telephone as being a separate part of our lives, by 2010, things will be in a digital world. We're going through this phase that I call defragmentation of media. Everything that used to be analog was fragmented and it's being consolidated into digital bits. All media, all entertainment, all music, all pictures, all press, all becomes just a digital bit and the transport becomes irrelevant. So that's a long-winded technical answer to say it just won't be separated. TV, music, I guess audio and video will just be transported in dozens of different ways and we won't call any one of them the Internet.
DP: What kind of computer would you recommend if I were going to buy one today?
MC: I could probably recommend one of the new Toshiba laptops with the wireless LAN. If you were just using it for general use and intended to travel some. The reason for that is it's got DVD, so you could use it for entertainment, it's got ethernet so you could connect it at the office. And it's got this new thing they call WIRCA, which is actually an 80211 (a wireless LAN if you want to get real technical) -- which is a standard that's becoming more prevalent that allows you just to connect to a wireless hub. So you could roam around your house and roam around your office without ever having to be tethered and use that connection to connect to the Net.

DP: Where do you stand on Napster?
MC: I think the record labels will go down in history as having made the ultimate stupid move. I think the record industry trying to shut down Napster is the dumbest thing I've ever heard of in the business world, that it's the ultimate gold mine for the record labels. Never in the history of man has there been any industry that has had 60 million potential customers aggregate at one central place and they've decided to close the mall. It will cost them far more to try to reaggregate that audience then they could ever possibly lose in a hundred years from the stealing of their copyrights or from piracy.

DP: What are you going to do with your tax savings from President Bush?
MC: It probably won't impact me at all one way or the other. It probably nets out the same just because of the alternative minimum tax. That doesn't go away.
DP: How much tax did you pay last year?
MC: Let's see, seven figures is a million -- nine figures.
DP: OK, over a million obviously, but how many millions are you saying?
MC: Nine figures would be over $100 million.
DP: Oh nine -- I'm sorry, I can't count. $100 million?
MC: In taxes, yeah.
DP: Is that too much?
MC: No.
DP: You have no problem with writing a check for $100 million?
MC: Over $100 million, no. No, it's the right thing to do. I mean, it's painful writing the checks, because you do them in installments, you don't just write it all at once, but...
DP: That just sounds ludicrous. I mean, I know you've got a boat load of money -- but still, $100 million?
MC: There's better places to put it, but you know, every time I see public works that work, I get a smile.

DP: What's the strangest way you've earned money?
MC: If I got in trouble for the Penthouse interview, I'd get crushed for this one.
DP: Were you a pimp?
MC: Not quite, no. Anyway...
DP: A drug dealer?
MC: Hell no! I'll say chain letter.
DP: Gee, that's not sexy.
MC: I'm not going anywhere close to sexy.
DP: Did you deliver pizzas or anything?
MC: No. In terms of making money with not-glamorous jobs, I sold magazines door-to-door, I shelved stuff in drugstores and grocery stores. I worked as a grocery cashier. What else? I worked as a bartender, as a bouncer, as you've heard. I've had lots of just run-of-the-mill jobs.

DP: Do you make out your fine checks to the NBA office or David Stern? How does that work?
MC: No, I just deliver the pennies in an armored truck and they can do with them whatever they want.
DP: You pay your fines in pennies?
MC: Always.
DP: No, you don't.
MC: I'll never tell.
DP: I would. I would, I think that would be good.
MC: I'll never tell.
DP: Well, what is it -- the meter's running. It's $400,000. Do you think you can hold out the rest of the year without getting fines?
MC: It depends on what happens.
DP: That's what I thought you were going to say. Aside from Karl Malone, another player you don't see eye-to-eye with...?
MC: Kevin Garnett.
DP: Because?
MC: I just didn't like some of the things he said to some of our players.
DP: During games?
MC: Yeah.
DP: Don't you take that as just part of the landscape of being an NBA player?
MC: Oh, yeah. It's not something where I would say something's got to be done. It's just Kevin is very, very passionate and that's just the way it is. If he was on the Mavericks, I wouldn't say change it at all. ... I mean, it's not personal, it's just when you hear some of the trash and it's coming toward your guys, it doesn't make you feel good.

DP: Ideal dinner party. You get five people, past or present.
MC: Oh boy. Ayn Rand, Bobby Knight, the pope. I'd probably have to have David Stern there. And Anna Nicole Smith.
DP: I don't think you make enough money for her to date you.
MC: No, it's true. You know what? Take out David Stern, Bobby Knight and Ayn Rand, and put in Elizabeth Hurley, Cindy Crawford, Denise Richards and Magic Johnson.

DP: Dealing with Michael Jordan has got to be a bit of a rush. And you're going to say that your salary is lower even though you made this deal.
MC: Right.
DP: But still, you've got Juwan Howard for two more years.
MC: Right.
DP: Did Jordan tap into a friendship or relationship?
MC: Oh, hell no -- I couldn't care less. I don't get intimidated at all. No. I contacted him first.
DP: And you said I'll take Juwan?
MC: Yeah.
DP: You still look at it as a great deal?
MC: Oh, yeah.

DP: What's your take on the XFL?
MC: I love it. I absolutely, positively love it. They understand that sports is entertainment, and they just want to shove it up the butt of all these people who think sports is some serious business that impacts world peace. You know, it's not. It's meant to be fun. I don't expect that the ratings are going to recover to the 10s that they were getting. But the reality is, they don't have to ... there's not a league that's ever gone through that start-up period within the last 20 years that wouldn't have prayed to be in the exact same position the XFL is in right now. The only problem they have is the same problem the NBA has -- and that is a media that forgets it's a game and takes itself too seriously. This nonsense about not putting it in the sports pages because it's contrived for kids or contrived for self-promotion, it's ridiculous. Most of the sports that we play are contrived at some level or another for kids and enjoyment, you know. And whether football was created from Rugby or basketball because Dr. Naismith wanted something for kids to do -- heck, why do you think they call basketball players cagers? Because they used to have to put them in cages. You know, it's a game. It's about fun and the XFL gets that.
DP: Sounds like you'd like to have a franchise.
MC: I tell you what. If I did decide to get a franchise in any other sport, I'd get an XFL franchise. I just love the fact that they take risks. Did you see they changed the rule on bump-and-run?
DP: Yeah.
MC: How brilliant is that? You know, there is no other professional sport that would change a rule once they realized it was wrong.
DP: Well, I hope you enjoy it because I don't think it's going to last very long. It will last but it won't last on NBC. It won't get prime-time exposure.
MC: Yeah, it might not get prime time, I agree with you there.
DP: It'll be on a secondary channel.
MC: But you know, once it builds a base of fans -- just like the Arena Football League, which you guys don't cover much, right? It doesn't get much coverage on ESPN, radio or TV or magazine, but you know what? It's still there and it's still making a lot of kids happy. They don't have tons of franchise movement and they tried to build an AFL II and now they have a relationship with the NFL. It just so happens some guy who is just a journeyman quarterback in their league became the MVP of the NFL and the Super Bowl. You know, just because the mainstream media doesn't pay attention, it doesn't mean it's not valid.

Mark Cuban
It isn't Mario Lemieux -- instead, it's Mavs owner Mark Cuban donning a Penguins jersey.
DP: Is there an NBA media type that irks you?
MC: As in a person?
DP: Not a person as much as...
MC: Oh, all the national columnists drive me up a wall because they -- you know, when I say national, tending towards the New York media. Just because they take themselves so seriously and they write the same 12 columns over and over and over again.
DP: Why do you think you're an easy target?
MC: Because I say something. I don't spit out the same politically correct stuff everybody else does. Because I have no fear of the media, since there's nothing at stake for me relative to the media. I'm not the GM of a team who might lose his job if he says the wrong thing. I don't have any side businesses that somebody might not use if I said the wrong thing. If I still ran, you would see me be the most demure person there was because there would be a potential impact on my other business. So because I don't fit into that mode any more and I can just say what's on my mind and say what I think is true or valid, they just don't like that.

DP: Is there part of you that wants to play?
MC: Oh, of course. I grew up being a basketball player, my entire life. I'm a fan.
DP: But who is you -- out on the floor? When you look at a player, do you see somebody and say, "That's me -- that's who I would want to play like."
MC: No, because I don't have the skills to compare myself to anybody. But who doesn't still go play in a rec league and doesn't wish they had the skills to play in the NBA? Of course, everybody does, but that doesn't mean I'm trying to live vicariously by owning the team. But it means I wouldn't have bought the team if I wasn't a huge NBA fan.

DP: Would you hire Bob Knight to give an inspirational speech to a company?
MC: To a company, yes.
DP: Not to your team?
MC: To a company, absolutely. Absolutely, positively.
DP: And what do you think they would learn from listening to Bob Knight?
MC: Preparation is the key to success. Yep, and that is so true. And that's his key to success and probably part of the key to some of the problems he's had.
DP: Would you hire Bob Knight as a coach?
MC: Head coach, assistant coach or consultant?
DP: Head coach.
MC: I don't know. I'd have to really have a lot of talks with him, but it's irrelevant because I'm thrilled to death with Nelly.
DP: But Nelly is not going to stay there forever.
MC: Yeah, but it's different circumstances by the time that happens, so it's really dependent on any given circumstances. But I think coach Knight wants to stay in the college ranks.
DP: OK, but you would entertain the idea?
MC: Yeah, I'd definitely entertain it.

DP: You once said that if you hear you shouldn't do this or you shouldn't do that --
MC: -- it's a good indication I should --
DP: -- and you know you're on the right track.
MC: Absolutely.
DP: Still true?
MC: Yeah.
DP: Is that a motto?
MC: I don't know if it's a motto. I think my motto really comes from coach Knight -- everybody's got the will to win but it's only those with the will to prepare that do win. And I guess my favorite saying comes from Allen Iverson in a Slam Magazine article. He's says, I'm living the life I've always dreamed of and I'm doing the job I always wanted.

DP: Is Steve Nash still dating Ginger Spice?
MC: They never really were dating. But Nash has got some honeys who chase after him.
DP: Yeah, go figure. Is it the accent?
MC: It's the stand-up-and-be-yourself attitude.
DP: So he is the team stud, stallion, heartthrob?
MC: He and Dirk Nowitzki are the two heartthrobs.

DP: Do you think you'll get fined for this interview?
MC: I hope not. Did I say anything you think I might get fined for?
DP: God, I hope so.
MC: No thanks. I didn't criticize the referees at all, did I?
DP: No, I don't think so.
MC: And I didn't criticize the integrity of the game at all.
DP: But it sounded like Stern in a recent interview said that he would entertain giving you your money back.
MC: Right.
DP: Do you believe that will happen?
MC: Yeah, actually I think there's a good chance of it, but who knows?
DP: Do you care? Will it be an olive branch if he gives you your money back?
MC: Of course I care. You know, $400,000 I can have a lot of fun with. It would be found money. Who doesn't have the most fun with found money?
DP: Yeah.
MC: Wouldn't you?
DP: Yeah, but it was yours in the first place.

DP: Are you worried about not being able to accomplish more than what you did by selling your company? That that could be the highlight of your life?
MC: No, because I don't judge the highlight of my life based on the finances. ... The thing for me isn't about reaching new plateaus, it's about just enjoying myself. You know what it's like as you get older and you come up with different things. Like you talked about wanting to spend more time with your kids -- well, I want to have a family at some point. So there's different things to do, and in between MicroSolutions and, I spent four years just doing nothing and having fun. And I was happy then and I'm happy now.

DP: I would love to see you do this -- get into the layup line with the warm-up on and take layups with the team before a game.
MC: I'm not going to do that. That's disrespecting the guys.
DP: No it's not.
MC: Yeah, it is.
DP: Why? It's layups.
MC: But you know, it's the same thing. If I'm out there shooting and I'm running around, the minute Nelly blows his whistle for practice, I'm off the court -- completely off the court -- because when you go to work, you go to work. I don't ask or expect the guys to do anything that would impact their jobs at all.
DP: Yeah, but it's warm-ups. Nobody cares about warm-ups.
MC: No, I do. I mean, when you go to work, you go to work. It's part of the psychology of the game of preparation. You have to know each player and each team. I mean, you'd be amazed at the little things that make such a huge difference -- if we go out for warm-ups 15 minutes before a game is supposed to start, we don't play as well as if we go out 20 minutes before. The slightest things make the hugest difference in guys being prepared for a game and I would never disrespect that. The flip side of that is I expect them to focus and be focused and get ready and I wouldn't do things to distract them.

DP: Hey, good luck getting your found money back. If you do, then we'll throw a hell of a party.
MC: Sure, we could throw baseball bats out of helicopters, you know.

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