Most people don't seem to like basketball owners like the Dallas Mavericks' Mark Cuban. You know the kind. They made their first million by 25, their first billion by 35.
They get a rap as pompous, arrogant, self-centered, spoiled rich kids who view pro sports as their own, private fantasy league. The team you grew up rooting for is their toy.
The list is short, including Cuban, the Maloof brothers and Pat Croce when he owned the 76ers. They whine, snort, stomp and howl from their courtside seats, seemingly wanting to be in the spotlight more than the starting five. They are the first to chastise a referee for a bad call, and the first on the floor at the end of the game.
"Go away," the traditionalist fans say. "You could be a swinging playboy with a woman on each arm. You could be in New York today, Monaco tomorrow and Thailand the day after that, and yet you insist on staying here, messing with my team."
There are plenty of people who hate the fact that the glory-soaking ego of Cuban can now experience the NBA Finals. I'm not one of them. Soak away, I say.
Why? Because he genuinely cares about his team. Beyond his wallet, he's invested his heart and soul in the Mavericks. You can't say that for every owner.
Every team should be so lucky as to have a fan like Cuban. A Pennsylvania transplant who came to Dallas to make his fortune in Internet ventures, he embraced a woeful Mavericks club in the 1990s. There were so many other things a rich, young guy could do in Texas, but he spent his time cheering for the pitiful Mavs, and trying to drum up interest in the team.
He tried to buy his hometown Pittsburgh Penguins. When that didn't work, he set his sights on the Mavs, eventually purchasing them from Ross Perot Jr. in 2000.
Within a couple of years, Cuban had raised the bar for what should be expected of a pro sports owner. He was passionately involved. He invested his billions in roster and facility upgrades. On his watch, the Mavs left the aging Reunion Arena and moved into the state-of-the-art American Airlines Center.
By the early 2000s, the Mavs had improved from a non-factor on the North Texas sports scene to the biggest non-football story in town.
In a league populated with tightwad owners like the Clippers' Don Sterling, and benevolent-but-detached owners like former Cavaliers chief Gordon Gund, Cuban's involvement and willingness to put his money where his mouth is has been a refreshing change.
We in Cleveland might be getting some secondhand benefits from Cuban as current Cavs owner Dan Gilbert appears to be taking some philosophical pages out of Cuban's book. Like Cuban, he has shown a desire to be an involved owner, and has shown a willingness to spend money.
Cuban might be pompous. He might jam his nose into on-court matters a bit too much. But the NBA would be in better hands if there were more owners that care the way he does.