I mostly like Mark Cuban. As a Dallas journalist who covered the Mavericks in their early years in the 1980s and continues to follow the team, I saw how Cuban helped lift the team from doormats to contenders. He also is among the most accessible sports owners, returning emails and calls when few owners will even reveal their email addresses.
But the dumbest decision Cuban ever made was to let Steve Nash walk away in 2004. Cuban wouldn't match a 6-year, $66 million contract offer made by the Suns that year for Nash, but that same year, Cuban gave mediocre center Erick Dampier a 7-year, $73 million contract.
His reasoning continues to defy logic. Cuban said in an arbitration hearing just last year that he couldn't match "what amounts to a maxed-out offer" for Nash in 2004. But he could give Dampier what amounts to "maxed-out" money that very year.
Cuban is still having to defend this decision. At various times, he has blamed former coach Don Nelson for saying that Nash had worn down and wasn't worth a 6-year contract. Cuban has said Nash had more motivation to do well in Phoenix after leaving the Mavs. After the Mavs beat the Suns in 2006 to go to the NBA Finals, Cuban even went on David Letterman's show and claimed Jason Terry was a more effective point guard than Nash.
"Steve's a great guy and I love him to death, but why couldn't he play like an MVP for us?" Cuban told Letterman and the national TV audience. "Jason Terry took his place, and hey, look where we are, and he's home watching."
This year, Terry, Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitski, Dampier and others Mavs who Cuban paid more than Nash are the ones watching as Nash leads the Suns to the Western Conference finals. And Cuban still won't admit that letting Nash walk was the stupidest decision of his tenure as Mavs owner.
Another interesting fact: The Mavs had the second highest payroll this year in the NBA of $88 million, only behind the Lakers' $91 million. The Suns were ninth at $75 million. The Spurs were 7th at $79 m. The Celtics, cavs and Magic - one of which will represent the East in the finals - were no lower than 6th with at least $82 m.