It’s been over two decades since Mark Cuban had a life-changing epiphany at an NBA game.
It was November 1999, at the beginning of the NBA’s 1999-2000 season, when the tech billionaire was sitting a few rows back from the court at a Dallas Mavericks game, that he realized his wealth could transport him from the stands to the owner’s box.
That’s what Cuban recently told Chris Paul during an interview for the NBA All-Star’s Bloomberg series “How I Got Here,” in which the two men discussed how the billionaire came to buy the Mavericks in 2000.
Cuban moved to Dallas in 1982 and launched his tech career there, becoming both a billionaire and a die-hard Mavericks fan in the process. Cuban actually decided to buy the Mavs while sitting in the stands, watching a team that had failed to make the playoffs for nearly a decade and was struggling to draw fans, he tells Paul.
“My seats are right by the Mavs bench… two rows back,” Cuban says. “I was into it and there was nobody there. And, I remember [thinking] ‘I can do a better job than this.’ And then it hit me: ‘Ding, ding, ding! Now, I can afford this stuff!'”
That’s actually an understatement. At the time, Cuban was a newly-minted billionaire who’d sold his internet radio company, Broadcast.com, to Yahoo for $5.7 billion just months earlier, in April 1999. Compared to the team’s eventual sale price — $285 million for a majority stake — Cuban had more than enough money to afford the Mavericks.
Cuban felt the Mavericks needed to do a better job not just on the court, but in terms of marketing the players to excite and grow the team’s fan base. He began putting out feelers to buy the team, going through mutual acquaintances to get in touch with then-owner, real estate billionaire Ross Perot Jr. Negotiations moved quickly, and Cuban was announced as the new owner of the team in January 2000, just a few months into the season.
The deal has proven to be a financial success for Cuban and the team. The Mavericks are currently valued at $2.7 billion — ninth-highest in the NBA — according to Forbes.
Still, Cuban is adamant that the purchase was all about his love of the game. Buying the team “never crossed my mind as an investment,” he told CNBC Make It in 2019. “I did it because I love basketball.”
Cuban also believed he could help turn around the team’s fortunes — and he was right. Cuban said in a 2000 interview that he was “willing to commit as much money as it takes” to turn the team into a consistent winner.
From prioritizing marketing the team’s best players to recruiting stars and always being an outspoken advocate and courtside cheerleader for the Mavericks, Cuban helped turn the team into one of the NBA’s top franchises. Since taking over, Cuban’s Mavericks have only missed the playoffs five times in 23 seasons, and won the 2011 NBA championship.
Still, Cuban’s whirlwind courtship of the team back in 1999 was almost too much for Chris Paul to believe.
“What? No, rewind. You don’t just sit at a game and then, six weeks later, own the [team],” Paul said in their recent Bloomberg interview.
Cuban’s response: “Yeah, pretty much!”