The Dallas Mavericks are often associated with their passionate owner Mark Cuban and their twenty-one-year-old Slovenian star, Luka Doncic, who finished fourth in MVP voting last season. Together, they make the perfect marketing piece and marketer in the NBA, a young star in the making playing for a serial entrepreneur in the sports and entertainment industry.
Of course, having an international star is not a foreign concept to the Mavericks. They started the 2018-19 season with a league-leading seven international players, the most famous being all-time great Dirk Nowitzki, who played for Dallas from the age of 20 until his retirement at 39. Last year, Dallas still carried five players from overseas.
Credit for that overseas pipeline belongs to Donnie Nelson, who today is the general manager and president of basketball operations. The son of Hall of Fame coach Don Nelson, Donnie was scouting overseas for the Golden State Warriors in the 1980s when he developed a close relationship with Lithuanian, Sarunas Marciulionis.
In 1987 Nelson convinced the Warriors to draft Marciulionis. But, because he was active in the resistance against Soviet rule, he was not ready to sign until 1989, becoming the first NBA player from the Soviet Union to play in the NBA. A current member of the Hall of Fame, Marciulionis is credited with bringing the Euro step move to the NBA.
Years later, Nelson, then working on his dad’s staff in Dallas prior to Cuban’s purchase, also influenced the Mavericks to draft the German player Nowitzki in 1998. Dirk would become the center piece and must-see player on a team that would win their first NBA championship in 2011.
Then, prior to Dirks final season, Nelson traded for Luka during the 2018 NBA draft. Since then, besides being the face of the franchise, Doncic has become must-see television with comparisons to the legendary Larry Bird.
Doncic’s 2019-20 averages of 28.8 points 9.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists will be hard to repeat this season. The Mavs finished last year as a seventh seed in the Western Conference, losing to the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. Gone are J.J. Barea, who often spelled Doncic, and sharpshooter Seth Curry who helped stretch the floor for Luka to do his damage.
They did add four promising rookies, but the only major addition is Josh Richardson, a wing with plenty of room to grow his game. It also does not help that fellow star player, Kristaps Porzingis, a 7’3” power forward from Latvia, has missed the start of the season.
The Mavericks however know that this team’s success will not be a sprint but rather has to be approached like a marathon. There is plenty of time to add through the draft, trades, or free agency. Today’s young players will somewhere become tomorrow’s big three and there could be few places to play as good as being in Dallas with Luka. That is also where having an owner like Mark Cuban will pay big dividends.
Cuban is known to be crazy about his team. He bought the team for $285 million and according to Forbes 2020 valuation (pre-pandemic) it is worth $2.4 billion!!!!
Yes, Cuban knows how to make a deal. He has invested in countless startups and has been an investor on ABC’s “Shark Tank” series since it began in 2011. Today, his net worth is somewhere around $4.2 billion. The Guinness Book of Records credits Cuban with the “largest single e-commerce transaction”, in history after he purchased a Gulfstream V jet for $40 million over the internet in October 1999. Today he uses that jet to fly to Mavericks road games, something most owners do not attend.
Otherwise, Cuban has his seat by the Mavericks bench, from where he is yelling at refs and opposing players as if he just walked in with his buddies to catch a few beers and get rowdy. His passion and lack of boundaries as an owner has led to repeated fines from the league office. To date he has accumulated over $3 million in penalties and despite questions about him being a distraction, he and Steve Ballmer in Los Angeles are generally considered the two best owners to play for.
Immediately before the pandemic, he was hit with a $500,000 fine for confronting referees after a lost, and verbally criticizing the league on public forums. He responded by matching the fine with a donation that would include funding the heart transplant of a local man.
That is Mark Cuban. Aside from his antics, he cares about people and especially his players.
In 2017 he completely renovated the Mavericks locker rooms. That same year, he lent the team plane to J.J. Barea to help with disaster relief efforts after Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico.
You see Mark Cuban, as much as a shark as he is, is a Dallas Mavericks fan first. He is a man living out his childhood fantasy through his players. Where money may be the main factor for many owners, Cuban is 1000% emotionally invested in this team.
That is where Luka comes in. Luka and Cuban make great entertainment and even better basketball. Both will stop at nothing to win. Both understand the opportunities that the NBA, a city like Dallas, an owner like Cuban and a young star like Luka present. Luka is only twenty-one but has been a professional winning awards and championships since the age of thirteen. The stage is already not too big for him.
Pair them with Donnie Nelson, an out of the box thinker with global connections, a hall of fame father-mentor, and a champioship builder. When I think of the Dallas Mavericks, I think of financial and emotional investment (Cuban), top talent (Luka), and brains (Nelson).
The Mavericks will not win the NBA championship this year. The Mavericks roster may even have taken a step backwards. They are 1-3 in this young season and the western conference is stacked.
Dallas has everything it takes to break out and become one of the powerhouse teams in the NBA this decade. All the ingredients are there and you can bet your bottom dollar that talent will always flock to play for the teams with the best chance of delivering a title.
So, buy long on the D-Mavs. They should pay amazing dividends for years to come.