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The Dallas Mavericks Are NBA Champs

Owner Mark Cuban, victorious at last, leaves it all on the court

Marc Tracy
June 13, 2011
From left: Jason Kidd; Mark Cuban; Dirk Nowitzki.(Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
From left: Jason Kidd; Mark Cuban; Dirk Nowitzki.(Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Last night, after the Dallas Mavericks won their first ever NBA championship—defeating the favored Miami Heat in a six-game series, including two wins in Miami (the Heat’s arena isn’t in South Beach)—owner Mark Cuban symbolically allowed the franchise’s charter owner, Don Carter, to accept the trophy. Carter, complete with cowboy hat, was an hilarously apt embodiment of what the franchise ostensibly stands for. But Mark Cuban is the true Dallas maverick: A Jewish self-made tech billionaire who sees more value in investing in advanced statistical knowledge than any other professional sports owner. As ESPN’s John Hollinger reported this morning, Cuban allowed his statheads unprecedented access to his coaching staff, and is himself “an avid number-cruncher who hired [coach Rick] Carlisle, in part, because Cuban studied his lineup usage and noted he used optimal line-ups with far greater frequency than most coaches.”

The Mavs were Tablet Magazine’s team entering the Finals, but also at the beginning of the playoffs (they were not actually anointed until the second round, but take it from the guy who decides: They were always our team). Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki—now an official entrant into the “name the top five forwards of all time?” argument—is, we learned, not only the best German basketball player ever but also the favorite current player of the best Jewish basketball player ever. Future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd, 38, finally got the championship he has long deserved. And then there is Cuban, who continued to have faith—except it’s not faith, it’s reason—that if he smartly put together a team around his one prized superstar and worked every angle he could, he would eventually triumph. 11 seasons and 11 playoff runs later, here we are.

When ESPN’s Stuart Scott asked Cuban why basketball’s most notoriously outspoken owner had issued nary a peep during these entire, spectacular playoffs, Cuban deflected. I found Cuban similarly reticent a few months ago when I saw him on a panel about “Referee Analytics” in the course of reporting an article on Jews and advanced sports stats. “Since only one team out of 30 will win the championship, it is far from outlandish to pour real resources into obtaining even the tiniest of edges,” I wrote. “No wonder Cuban looked so pleased onstage, chewing gum as though in conscious effort to keep his mouth shut about the blatant imperfections and occasional scandalous biases of NBA refs. How sweet it will be when he gets his championship—and his last laugh.”

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.