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Mark Cuban Re-wrote the Rules of Team Ownership

Mark Cuban is set to sell his majority stake in the Mavericks, but his impact on the franchise and global basketball is undeniable.

After 23 years as the Dallas Mavericks‘ majority stakeholder, Mark Cuban has reportedly agreed to sell his stake to Sands casino magnate Miriam Adelson and her family at a $3.5 billion valuation. The news came hours after Adelson sold $2 billion in Sands stock to reportedly buy a majority stake in a then-unspecified sports team.

In the early days of the internet, Cuban co-founded live-streaming site Broadcast.com, which he sold in 1999 to Yahoo for $5.7 billion in stock. He bought the Mavericks the next year for $285 million during a time when the team hadn’t finished with a winning record or playoff appearance in a decade. At the time, Dallas had only six winning seasons in the franchise’s 20-year history.

In the 23 years since Cuban’s purchase, the Mavs have had 18 winning seasons, 18 playoff appearances, two Finals appearances, and won the 2010-11 NBA championship. His innovation and impact both on and off the court have revolutionized the league and sport in numerous ways, which we’ll lay out below. But as we’ll discuss later on, his sale of the team — which the league still must approve — will also set the stage for a huge battle in one of the world’s greatest growth industries.

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Mark Cuban the Advocate

There have been outspoken sports owners before, from George Steinbrenner and Marge Schott in baseball to Al Davis and Jerry Jones in football, but they were never visible every game like Cuban was. Everyone got to see the Mavs owner right in front of his team’s bench at nearly every game, using his Gulfstream private jet to travel on the road as well. He could also often be found wearing his team’s jersey and directly interacting with fans.

No NBA owner had really done that before. Nor had any owner been quite as outspoken. Cuban accumulated a reported total of $4 million in league fines just for complaining about officiating that he deemed unfair to his beloved team, becoming an advocate for his players in the process. While most owners shied away from speaking to the media, Cuban embraced a forward-facing strategy that helped land his iconic role on Shark Tank and allowed him to become one of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs.

Cuban paved the way for NBA owners like Mat Ishbia, Steve Ballmer, Dan Gilbert, Mikhail Prokhorov, Joe Lacob, and Vivek Ranadive to have more public profiles than past stakeholders who largely sat anonymously in the skybox. As part of this Adelson deal, Cuban will retain control of basketball operations, ensuring he’ll stay in the spotlight, cheering on his team at age 65.

Dirk & the Euro Revolution

Dallas acquired Dirk Nowitzki in a draft night trade in 1998 before Cuban’s tenure as owner. But no European-born player had really been the face of an NBA franchise before Cuban embraced, defended, and built around the seven-foot German superstar. Together, the Mavs became one of the NBA’s best and most consistent teams this century. And as Dallas became one of the league’s marquee franchises, Cuban earned billions with the team’s rising valuation.

There had been players before him like Drazen Petrovic, Arvydas Sabonis, Toni Kukoc, and Detlef Schrempf, but the two-decade-long Cuban-Nowitzki partnership helped spark the NBA’s European revolution and grew the game for the better around the world. Teams in the 2000s became more receptive toward building around the likes of Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, and Marc Gasol, paving the way for the explosion in current European megastars. There may not be a Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, or Luka Doncic without Cuban’s love and loyalty toward Nowitzki, which forever changed the league for the better.

Cuban’s Final Frontier

Cuban’s sale of most of the Mavs to the Adelson family is no coincidence.

He’s hinted at partnering with Sands for more than a year now, with the goal of building a new arena in Dallas attached to or along with a casino. The only problem? Gambling and sports betting aren’t legal in Texas.

The Texas state legislature only convenes once every two years to discuss new laws, and the gambling issue didn’t advance far enough in 2023 for any changes to be made. While many have speculated over the last 24 hours about Cuban’s political ambitions — including a third party run for president in 2024 — his main political battleground will more likely be legalizing gambling in the nation’s largest conservative state.

Over the last 23 years, Cuban’s built enough business, political, and social equity to be a meaningful driver of change on this issue. It’s one that would earn many billions of dollars for the state, gambling companies, and casino owners like his new partners in the Adelsons. It’s poised to be an issue that will define Texas for the rest of the decade as one of the last largest American states (along with California and Florida) that has yet to fully adopt sports betting.

While Mark Cuban will soon no longer be a majority stakeholder, his impact on the Mavericks, sports, and society as a whole will continue as strong as ever.

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About The Author
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.