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Cuban finally gets satisfaction of title

| Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mark Cuban needed the NBA championship his Dallas Mavericks won Sunday night — not for his ego, not for more money, but to show the world who he really is.

That would be a billionaire born and bred in Mt. Lebanon, rooted in Pittsburgh-bred values, who graciously allowed the Mavericks' founder, Don Carter, to be the first to receive the Larry O'Brien Trophy from NBA commissioner David Stern at Miami's American Airlines Arena.

"People might have been surprised by that, but it was 100 percent in character for Mark," childhood friend Todd Reidbord said. "He's the most loyal guy I know."

The Mavericks' surprising run to the title — they were only the fifth NBA team seeded lower than No. 2 to win the championship since 1984 — came at perhaps the perfect time for Cuban, who grew up in Pittsburgh mostly during the 1960s and '70s.

Brash, famously critical of the NBA and often lumped into a group of wrong-for-sports billionaire owners such as the NFL's Daniel Snyder (Redskins) and MLB's late George Steinbrenner (Yankees), Cuban's public image during this postseason changed dramatically.

If upset with on-court officiating, he complained only to his friends. Stern, his longtime adversary, mentioned his name only to congratulate Cuban's team for defeating the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.

Many of these Mavericks are veteran holdovers from the squad that blew a 2-0 series lead to the Heat in the 2006 Finals. The names Cuban mentioned while celebrating were Carter; Donnie Nelson, the Mavericks' general manager; and Dirk Nowitzki, the Finals MVP with whom Cuban is so tight that they watched the Steelers-Packers Super Bowl together in Cuban's suite at Cowboys Stadium.

"When he was up there saying that stuff about being happiest for Nowitzki and the Dallas fans ... I honestly believe there was a different sense of satisfaction than he would have had in 2006," said Jerry Katz, a childhood friend of Cuban's dating to Mt. Lebanon's Hoover Elementary School.

"He's always been brash, but he's also always been very caring and sincere. More of that side of Mark came through this time around."

Katz and Reidbord were at Cuban's wedding. They attended Game 3 of the Finals in Dallas, watching from a luxury suite with Cuban's brothers and in-laws. Both friends choked up when seeing TV cameras catch Cuban, 52, greeting his wife, two daughters and son outside the Mavericks' dressing room after the victorious Game 6.

Their friend, against whom they still play pickup hoops on his biyearly return trips home, had grown no less competitive, but ...

"He's matured," Reidbord said. "I mean, the morning of Game 3, he went to his daughter's dance recital."

Last fall, Katz chatted with Cuban about his son, Teddy, who was considering options for an internship. Teddy Katz sought a career as a nutritionist for a sports team.

"I never told Mark that," Jerry Katz said. "I figured Mark knew some firms that would be good for Teddy. I wasn't expecting him to say, 'Why not just bring him to Dallas for three months?' "

Cuban offered Teddy an internship. During the winter, Teddy said he saw Cuban at the Mavericks' practice facility or arena "every day."

"I got the sense that not many owners in sports give the face time he does to his players," Katz said. "And he joked around with everybody, just like you would with your friends. He's like a friendly trash talker, and everybody got some. Even I did a few times.

"It was a fun environment. It was like a family because most of those guys in that organization have been with Mark for so long. That is the biggest reason I was so happy Sunday night — I knew how much it meant to everybody, including Mark."

On Teddy's cell phone Monday were text messages from Mavericks players that read: "You played a part in this."

Cuban did not return an email yesterday, but he didn't wait long after the Mavericks won to reach Reidbord and Katz.

"His emails are always very short. He's not long-winded," Reidbord said. "One of the first ones I got from him said, 'This is just great.' "

Reidbord, president of real estate developer Walnut Capital, is one many Pittsburghers — Mt. Lebanon residents, especially — celebrating the Mavericks' title as if that team donned Black 'n Gold.

That has more to do with Cuban than with distaste for the villainous and vanquished LeBron James and the Heat.

"It's because of the type of guy Mark is," said David Jedlicka of Bloomfield. "A lot of opinions get put on him because he's very visible, but he's really a good guy who doesn't forget his roots."

Jedlicka, a recent Pitt graduate, first met Cuban in a club-level men's room at Petersen Events Center during a 2004 Panthers men's basketball game — one of two Cuban has attended as an honorary member of the "Oakland Zoo."

"I was there early to help put newspapers on the (arena) seats, and we ran into one another in that bathroom," Jedlicka said. "I asked him if he would wear one of the 'Zoo' shirts, and he didn't hesitate: 'Yeah, definitely.'

"Later that night, I gave him a hard time, saying he was portrayed as a bad guy — like this crazy owner — when he was trying to buy the Pirates and Penguins. Mark smiled and said, 'You really can't believe everything you read.' "

Additional Information:

Cuban to pay for parade

Mavericks owner and Mt. Lebanon native Mark Cuban is bailing out Dallas.

Mayor Dwaine Caraway said despite budget problems, the city still planned to host a parade for the newly crowned NBA champion Mavericks. But it won't have to; Cuban said he'll personally pay for the celebration.

'We'll do it,' Cuban told 'All I told them was -- Terdema Ussery, our president -- you plan the parade. I'll pay for it because I don't think it's right for the city to have to pay for it. And let's just have some fun.'

Parade details have yet to announced, according to The Associated Press.

Cuban hinted he might break with tradition in another way.

'I might not get rings,' the billionaire told NBATV. 'Rings are old school. You've seen it before: There's guys who pick up the sweats and towels, and they have these big, blingy rings. I'm like, 'Rings are done. It's time to take it to the next level.' '

-- Wire reports

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