Mark Cuban has owned up to this before — back in 2004 he listened to his doctors, his experts who told him Steve Nash was going to break down and to not bring him back. Nash’s body did eventually break down, but not for another decade and in the interim he went to Phoenix, won two MVP awards and ran a system that has altered the NBA landscape (even Gregg Popovich admits to stealing from it).
Cuban was straight forward honest about it speaking to Rolling Stone, telling them it was his biggest mistake as an owner and throwing then coach and decision maker Don Nelson under the bus.
Letting Steve Nash go. I learned an expensive lesson. It took me too many years to realize that for some GMs, their number-one job wasn’t winning a championship, it’s keeping their job. It’s easy to look back and see my mistakes today. I wish I would have been smart enough to know better back then. I loved taking risks to win. Unfortunately some of them were not as educated as they should have been.
What I think was more interesting out of the Rolling Stone Q&A was his honesty that he empathized with Donald Sterling… well, up to the point it hurt Cuban’s pocketbook.
Did I empathize with him? Yes. Of course I did. This is an elderly man who grew up in a generation that is night-and-day in how it understood race and culture. And yes, I empathized with him because this was a conversation that took place in his kitchen and he had a right to expect privacy in his home. But none of that excused him from the rules of the NBA. He put the business of the NBA at risk. That is a situation that, while I have been fined, I have never found myself in and don’t expect to.
That is the line with Sterling. It doesn’t matter where the conversation took place, how owners feared the slippery slope and the rest of it — he had become toxic to the NBA business. Sponsors had pulled out of the Clippers and players would have boycotted games in the fall. It had to change.
You got to love that Cuban admits all that. More owners like Cuban would be good for pro sports in general.