Mark Cuban comes off as an unpatriotic, unapologetic, typical money-first, damn-the-flag, ugly-American businessman. But listen closer. Deeper. Does he think the U.S. Olympic basketball team is a shambles?
“I hope so,’’ the Dallas Mavericks owner told FOXSports.com.
“Maybe that’ll be my next business. F— up the Olympics.’’
Here we go again with Cuban. The NBA stocks the U.S. Olympic team with stars, and will again this summer at the London Olympics. Cuban went on a rant in the way only Cuban can, which is to say it went way overboard, and will outrage plenty of people, including NBA Commissioner David Stern.
It came shortly after the outrage over Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen talking about pay for Olympians, and raising cries from critics about lack of patriotism.
Now Cuban seems to want to be paid, too, for turning over his players?
By the time he was done, you couldn’t help but to think he is one cynical SOB. You always realized that he was just telling a cold truth about the Olympic spirit and ideal.
“It’s the biggest mistake the NBA makes,’’ he said. “If you look up stupid in the dictionary, you see a picture of the USA Dream Team playing for free for corporate America so the U.S. Olympic Committee can make millions of dollars. If you come up with something that you own, that you give it to me for free so I can make billions of dollars, I want it.
“And it has nothing to do with patriotism. It’s all about money. You don’t see the Olympic Committee saying, ‘Oh we made so much money. Let’s give it to people.’ ”
If the Olympics weren’t about profit, he said, then he would be fine turning over his players for the Games. Then, he said, it might be about the right things.
But the Dream Team? Jordan, Magic, Bird? But those guys turned basketball into a global sport.
“Sure,’’ he said. “How much has that accomplished for us?’’
Look, that Dream Team was a patriotic moment. But it also was a corporate one, with the NBA drooling over the prospects of all the potential licensing deals, and maybe even future teams, overseas.
When Cuban asked what the NBA got out of the original Dream Team, I nodded behind him, at Dirk Nowitzki. That team led to worldwide growth in the game.
“I mean, we brought in great players,’’ he said, agreeing. “I’ve got nothing against …
“But if we’d have had a bunch of kids out there like (the 1980) Miracle on Ice, that didn’t take any pros to make that special. And here we are 18 years later, 20 years later from the Dream Team basically, right? Trust me, 7-footers before the Dream Team” — he nodded back at Nowitzki — "he wasn’t going to be a bicyclist. He wasn’t going to be a tennis player.’’
If Cuban thinks patriotism in the Olympics is dead, he is dead wrong.
There will be athletes, paid athletes, on the medal stands in London, crying their eyes out as the U.S. flag is raised and the national anthem is played. They will not be crying because they know it means more money for them.
But that will come, too. Money does not automatically disqualify patriotism. Even some super-rich athletes will be thinking about the flag.
Maybe that emotion is true more so in the sports with less attention, where the Olympics are their big moment.
Cuban, though, tells the truth. He talks about the corporatism and TV broadcast rights.
“Just say we’ll make it available to everybody,’’ he said. “When the president gives a speech … (it’s in the) public domain. If you want to make this about patriotism, you make it in the public domain, so everybody (can get it). Look, if you don’t have cable, you’re not going to see a lot of what you’re supposed to be so patriotic about.’’
See, it has all been blurred together: amateurism, big business, Olympic spirit, shoe companies, endorsements. The truth is, Cuban is not ripping the Olympic ideal, but rather saying that it is total BS at this point. He’s saying that the Olympic spirit has been hijacked by, well, the Olympics.
Either return the ideal or give everyone else a cut.
So, if the players were paid, you’d be OK with that?
“No,’’ Cuban said. “I think it should be 21 (-year-olds) and under, 22-and-under. That’s it. I can’t think of anything more ridiculous and stupid than giving away the best assets from a for-profit business to somebody else to make hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars.
It doesn’t get any dumber than that.’’
But if you pay players, then you won’t be giving it away.
“No, no,’’ he said. “I’m talking about …
About your assets?
“Yeah,’’ he said. “They get hurt, you both get hurt, player and team.
And players do get hurt. And then what? Just stupid. They should play high-school players. Give them experience.’’
But then, the U.S. will lose.
Player risk. That gets back to the idea that this team already is a shambles. Dwight Howard is out after back surgery. Andrew Bynum says he’s not going to play in the Olympics because he needs the rest. Kobe Bryant has been fighting injury.
And what about Derrick Rose? After playing all the way through the conference finals last year, he spent the offseason rigorously working on his game, frustrated about what he saw as his role in the Chicago Bulls’ loss to the Miami Heat.
Then, because of the player lockout, this 66-game season has been cram-packed, which has led to player injuries all season.
Rose has missed 26 games, off and on all season, with injuries to his foot, groin, back, ankle and toe. He returned Saturday night for the Bulls’
93-83 win over Dallas. But let’s say the Bulls go on another long playoff run, and then Rose plays in the Olympics, and then comes back for next season.
Can all that happen?
“I hope so,’’ Cuban said, “cause that’s just plain stupid.’’