Former NBA commissioner David Stern acknowledged that he used his powerful influence to help Mark Cuban eventually become the owner of the Dallas Mavericks.
In an interview with Turner Sports’ Ernie Johnson that aired Friday night on NBA-TV, Stern said Cuban started being Cuban even before his purchase of the Mavericks from Ross Perot Jr. was finalized on Jan. 4, 2000.
Stern said the transaction came extremely close to falling through before he stepped in and persuaded the NBA Board of Governors to vote to approve Cuban’s ownership.
“When Mark bought the team, and it was under contract, he started being Mark before he’d closed,” Stern told Johnson. “We had a very difficult meeting where there was an approval that was sought, and the vote of the two combined committees that were going to pass on it was surprisingly close.
“If that vote was reported out to the board, he would not have been approved. And I said, ‘You know guys, that’s why you pay me the big bucks. So I think he’ll be OK and I think we should make the vote as close to unanimous as we can,’ and they said OK.”
Stern admits if he had just sat back and not made any comments to the board, “he doesn’t get it” — as in Cuban would not have been the Mavs’ owner.
“And I think we would have been the poorer for it, interestingly enough, despite all of his machinations and expertise — real or imagined,” Stern said. “But the other owners — ‘Oh, hey, David, he’s your guy.’
“They never miss the opportunity to remind me. But I say, ‘Hey, guys, so what? Enjoy it.’ So when you ask me if I get angry, I brought it all on myself, and I’m glad I did.”
Stern retired as commissioner of the NBA at midnight Friday night after 30 years on the job and was replaced by Adam Silver. Stern has levied nearly $2 million in fines on
Cuban — all dispersed to charity — the past 14-plus seasons.
“He knew what button to push to get himself fined,” Stern said. “Last week we whacked him for $100,000. He was asking for it.
“And now he’s saying, ‘Well, wait until I get a hold of Adam.’ OK, and Adam will whack him. So what? OK.’’
Friday’s TV show, David Stern: 30 Years, reviewed Stern’s life on the job of a league that was depicted to have a drug problem when he took over, but is now considered one of the more vibrant leagues in professional sports.
“I have leaned on him for advice,’’ Stern said of Cuban. “There are lots of things he doesn’t agree with what I’ve done, and I tell him, ‘Thank you, have a nice day, we’re going to do what we deem to be in the best interest of 30 teams, not any one team.’ But he’s very intelligent.’’