The Dallas Mavericks won’t be able to give Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant a proper farewell. And that, in a way, bothers Mark Cuban.
Bryant announced Sunday that he will retire after this season. And since the Nov. 13 game was the Lakers’ lone appearance at American Airlines Center this season, Bryant has played his last game in Dallas — unless the two meet in the playoffs.
Asked if he felt cheated that Mavs fans didn’t have an opportunity to say goodbye, Cuban said: “Yeah, absolutely. Especially since we had a little ceremony planned for him. We thought he might [retire after this season], but it seemed like he wouldn’t.”
The Mavs play the Lakers one more time — Jan. 26 in Los Angeles.
Cuban and the Mavs had planned on going all-out to show Bryant how much he’s been appreciated throughout his 20-year career.
“Just a video tribute of the times he’s torched us, and the time we hadn’t beat them in 10 years,” Cuban said. “And he shot a left-handed turnaround when his right hand was hurt, and so we were going to show that — just all the Kobe-ism that came up against the Mavs.”
Cuban said the tribute also would have included the Dec. 20, 2005, game where Bryant personally outscored Dallas 62-61 through three quarters.
We were going to give everybody a chance to boo and cheer him at the same time. Maybe in a couple of years he’ll come back like [Michael Jordan] when he’s ready to buy a team.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on planned tribute to Kobe Bryant
“We weren’t going to show the whole thing, but we were going to give everybody a chance to boo and cheer him at the same time,” Cuban said. “Maybe in a couple of years he’ll come back like [Michael Jordan] when he’s ready to buy a team.”
Cuban said LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and Bryant were the only players in recent years who consistently played before sellout crowds both at home and on the road. With O’Neal already retired and Bryant a little more than four months from joining him, “that makes LeBron the last guy not to play to an empty seat.
If you never play to an empty seat, that’s the ultimate compliment because it means not just your peers, but also the fans appreciate and love to watch you play.
“[Kevin Durant] is amazing, and there’s a lot of amazing superstars in this league, but it’s not a guaranteed sellout every time they come to town,” Cuban added. “And that’s all you need to say about somebody. If you never play to an empty seat, that’s the ultimate compliment.”
Longtime team physician Dr. T.O. Souryal has worked his final game for the Mavericks.
Souryal, who has been with the franchise for more than 22 years, stepped down after Friday night’s loss against the Houston Rockets.
“I’m extremely grateful for the relationship that I’ve had with him here,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s a great doctor. He operated on my [left] knee and I’m doing fine, so I think that’s as good an advertisement as you can possibly have for how great a physician he is.”
Souryal has operated on some of the Mavs’ most important investments, including superstar Dirk Nowitzki.
“We didn’t fire him,” Cuban said. “It was just his choice. He’s a great doctor. We always brag about our doctors, and he’s a good one. But he’s not the only one; we’ll find another one.”
Dr. Souryal will continue to treat patients at his private practice — Texas Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Group.
“I will be forever grateful to [original owner] Don Carter and Mark Cuban for giving me such a tremendous opportunity to contribute to the Dallas Mavericks’ organization as team physician,” Souryal said. “It has been an absolute honor to be a part of the team for so many years.”
Jet for life
Cuban said the Mavs never came close to signing Rockets guard Jason Terry last summer when he was a free agent.
“We were trying to get younger,” Cuban said. “We had Wes [Matthews] and Chandler [Parsons], and so that clogged up some minutes. When we signed J.J. [Barea], that kind of killed it.”
Terry eventually signed a one-year contract with Houston. But Cuban has always been fond of Terry, who played for Dallas from 2004-12.
“Jet’s always welcome,” Cuban said. “He’s a Maverick for life.”