It's never a good idea to model yourself after a grown man who barks at referees and wears oversized jerseys. And who knows if Cavs owner Dan Gilbert wants to become the Mark Cuban of the North. But the two gazillionares-turned-NBA owners certainly have plenty in common.
Both made their fortunes with the help of the Internet — Gilbert in online mortgages, Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks, in Internet radio. Both have taken player pampering to new heights. And neither fits the demographic of the typical sports franchise owner, a profile the U.S. Census defines as "almost dead."
What's separated Gilbert and Cuban is their mouths. Smack flows from Cuban like boxed wine at a Parma Heights Tupperware party. Gilbert, for the most part, stays quiet about basketball.
But last week, Gilbert showed Cubanesque flashes during his hour-long keynote address at a small-business conference in Cleveland. He took his first swipe at the organizers of the NBA All-Star Game for failing to fix a broken Toyota Center sign. "The T.A. Center was open all three days," Cuban ribbed, head shaking in disapproval.
Then he took on the commissioner's office, a favorite pastime of Cuban's. Gilbert showed a photograph of the Cavs' revamped front office, which features a wall built from old NBA basketballs.
The NBA recently replaced leather balls with sleekly designed composite balls, and players are pissed. Zydrunas Ilgauskas complained the league didn't consult any players. Shaquille O'Neal suggested they revoke the college degree of whoever made the switch. Sources say former Cav Tractor Traylor is threatening to eat all the new balls so they have to use the old ones.
Gilbert piled on, questioning why the league didn't consult the guys who actually use them. "Those are the old balls," Gilbert noted of the ones in the team's office, "the ones that didn't stick to the players hands when they sweat."
Somewhere in Dallas, a grown man in a basketball jersey is smiling. -- Joe Tone