By Vincent Thomas, for NBA.com
Posted May 12 2009 5:46PM
The K-Mart/Cuban saga is right out of an awkward high school movie, starring Mark Cuban as the mouthy, bratty prep and Kenyon Martin as the tough-guy jock bussed in from the other side of the tracks. At one point in the film, Cuban, deliriously angry that the jocks booted him and his drama team out of the gymnasium, comes stomping and swearing into the cafeteria, passes K-Mart's girlfriend, furiously wags his finger at her and, through a foamy mouth, calls her boyfriend a punk (or "thug").
Later that day, word spreads that K-Mart is "looking for Cuban" and will "handle his business" when he sees him at school the next day. Cubes is envisioning a beatdown, or maybe he's just getting intimidated into some wet pants. So the next day, he slickly avoids K-Mart and then offers a weak apology over the P.A. system during afternoon announcements. "K-Mart, if you're listening, I just wanna say I'm sorry about yesterday. If you're up to it, stop by my dad's restaurant anytime. Sushi is on me."
That's sort of how this whole K-Mart/Cuban "beef" unfolded. K-Mart is a physical dude. He plays tough defense, hands out hard fouls, scowls and broods. I don't know about you, but that's how I like my power forwards. He's always taken great pleasure in roughing up Dirk Nowitzki. I'm sure this gets under Cuban's skin.
So it's no wonder that, after the swallowed whistle at the end of Game 3, an angry Cuban was enraged to the point of apparent lunacy. Walking through the tunnel, he looked at Martin's mom, Lydia Moore, pointed an accusatory finger in her direction and said something about her son. The next day at practice, Martin said he was "going to take care of it." He said he was a "face-to-face kind of dude." When Cuban heard that quasi-threat, he probably turned blush-red and ordered a couple extra bodyguards.
Of course, nothing happened after Game 4 on Monday night. This isn't a high school movie. The chances of K-Mart stalking Cuban near his office and greeting him with a "Yo, you say somethin' to my mamma" is too Hollywood for real life. Instead, Cuban issued a trite apology from the comfort of his website, offering the protection of his American Airlines Center suite and dinner in the summer.
I like Cuban. He's candid, passionate and involved. I'm sure his fans in Dallas adore him, too, considering he does all he can to assemble a winner. But, other than fellow sports journos and Mavericks fans, most folks I know can't stand the dude. It's because of incidents like this. Running around the court like a banshee in jeans, going the punk-route and calling a mom's son names ... then penning an apology on his website. It's been a series of wrong moves.
Although I've not come across any social science study to corroborate this, I'd bet that black American males are probably the ethnic gender most protective of their mothers. That started with the horror of watching mothers, wives, sisters and daughters get abused and raped as slaves, and it has continued with many of us being raised by our mothers, who play Superwomen as single moms while the sons take on the protector role voided by absent fathers. Hidden in the levity of all those decades of "Your mamma" jokes lurked the volatility of a sensitive subject. Like Chris Webber said on TNT Monday Night, the NBA "is a mamma's league" or, as Morris Peterson said last year on Mother's Day, "this is a league of Mamma's Boys."
The initial reaction to Cuban's actions was that there is some disconnect between cultures, that this rich white man didn't know not to be disrespectful to a black man's mother. But I love what rookie Kevin Love wrote on his Twitter page: "OH, and you do not talk about someones mamma like that...I'm from the suburbs and even I know that. Mark Cuban is my boy though, great owner."
Even though there were traces of a culture-chasm here, this really wasn't a black-white thing. This was a smart-dumb thing. Unless you're prepared to confront the man himself, to excoriate someone's mother by calling her son a name (I wonder if Cuban would have said that to Moore if she'd been sitting next to her husband) is sucka-style.
Cuban is an emotional dude. I believe he's a good dude at heart. But he needs to check himself. He needs to deliver a sincere apology to K-Mart and his mother's face. Man-up, Cubes.
Vincent Thomas writes "The Commish" column for SLAM Magazine and is a contributing commentator for ESPN. His "From The Floor" column appears weekly on NBA.com. Vince invites you to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter at twitter.com/VinceCAThomas.
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