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I have a confession to make: I really, really enjoy Mark Cuban's presence in the NBA. I'm probably in the minority, but whenever he speaks out it's at least a partial truth. He has committed another "controversial" act recently which I believe was totally his right to do: He booed Derek Fisher upon his return to Dallas.

"I'll just boo him like hopefully everybody else," Cuban said before the game.
Mavericks fans were on board, too. They booed Fisher when he entered the game with 1:45 left. They then cheered loudly 10 seconds later when the reserve guard was called for his first foul in Oklahoma City's eventual 107-101 win.

Source: Tim MacMahon, ESPNDallas

Eric Freeman of Yahoo Sports has written an interesting article on the subject. I suggest that you read the article because it's difficult to partially quote it without disrupting its flow of argument, but here is his conclusion:

I don't mean to suggest that Cuban's anger towards Fisher is fundamentally misguided — I actually think it's pretty darn principled. But the dilemma here goes well beyond an issue of basic kindness. The NBA relies on qualities like sportsmanship, passion, and various other principles and emotions to drive and maintain interest in its product. Yet, as a gigantic corporation with global reach, it ultimately can't let those ideals infringe upon its ability to 1) survive and 2) make money.
It's possible to argue that Cuban was wrong simply because he encouraged enmity towards a fellow competitor — two negatives don't add up to a positive. However, if the argument is that Cuban went too far in his role as an owner, it's worth wondering if he really did something truly wrong in calling out Fisher or just broke with decorum. Your answer will probably depend on what you consider the true interests of the NBA to be.
The question Freeman asks is basically that since NBA is a business whether team owners should adhere to "business formal" behavior or not. Although this is a good question, it's really easy to turn the tables: It is true that the NBA has gained its popularity due to creating superstars and stories, and it's only natural to expect that they'll preserve that environment for even more success. That's the business part. However, we all know that NBA itself sacrifices its professionalism (i.e. abiding by the rules) itself: the officials are not held to very little accountability if any, players and teams are subjected to double standards both on and off the court, the league office resembles a totalitarian regime more often than it does a democracy etc. Those could also be called unprofesssional yet are accepted today as the norm.

That's why I think what Cuban did is perfectly OK. If the NBA itself chooses to figuratively boo its players, why can't a team owner do so? Moreover, isn't "emotion" still the core of a sport and the interest towards it? Why would a team owner's encouragement of booing of a player who 'betrayed' the team would be scrutinized under the light of "business professionalism" where more important stuff often goes unquestioned?

I think the NBA needs owners like Mike Cuban. Yes, his antics* can be annoying for others at times, but he is knowledgeable, and there are a lot of clueless NBA owners who disrespect the game way more. Now, if every owner acted Cubanly, the league would probably turn into a giant circus, but while NBA collectively commits sins in terms of ethics, I think we need a fair share of pseudo-whistle blowers like Cuban. Owners like him take the steam of fans who want someone to speak out, so it goes both ways.

What do you think? What does the NBA need more of: business approach or heat and emotion? Maybe what we have today is good enough? Sound off in the comments.

*The original spelling mistake, antiques, lead to several good jokes in the Comments section and I didn't want to confuse the readers who read those after the correction, thus exists this footnote.

semioticus (shelbyl) 3/19/2013 04:37:00 PM Edit
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