July 27, 2011
The Day Mark Cuban Had My Back

In a way, Mark Cuban has become a bit of a villain around these parts. For one thing, he owns the Dallas Mavericks, a team many New Orleans fans consider to be the Hornets biggest Southwest Division rival. For another, Cuban has been quoted more than once criticizing or complaining about the Hornets, including raising a stir after a February 2011 trade New Orleans completed with Sacramento. Needless to say, that hasnt helped his popularity in Louisiana.

From a personal standpoint though, Cuban earned a long-time supporter in me about a decade ago, by doing something that showed exactly how unique he is as an owner of a professional sports franchise.

In the fall of 2001, I was given an assignment by an editor to write a feature article for Inside Stuff magazine (now HOOP magazine) on Mavericks guard Tim Hardaway. Hardaway, whose jersey has since been retired by the Miami Heat, was then at the tail end of a decorated career that included five All-Star appearances.

I was in the extremely early stages of my writing career, so when I read in an e-mail from an Inside Stuff editor that I was being assigned to profile Hardaway, I was excited. If completed, it would be the most significant magazine article Id done to that point, considering Hardaways status as a household basketball name.

Only problem was, I was having problems arranging an interview with Hardaway. I called the Mavericks public-relations department around Oct. 1, explaining to them that I wanted to interview him for an Inside Stuff article. I told the Mavericks that I had to turn in the article by a deadline of Oct. 31, in order for the story to appear in the next issue.

The Mavs assured me that it wouldnt be a problem to set up the interview, then told me theyd call me back once they had lined up a time. A couple weeks passed with no word from them, so I called Dallas to remind them about my deadline. They repeated what theyd told me in the previous conversation theyd get a hold of me when they had arranged for Hardaway to speak on the phone.

Eventually, it was the final week of October and there was still nothing finalized about when Id actually get to do the interview. I called the Mavs yet again, but got no further than I had in our previous conversations. I explained to them that it was Oct. 28 and I was rapidly running out of time to meet my deadline.

I was out of options. Keep in mind, the way freelance writing works for magazines is very simple: If you complete an assignment, you get paid for it. If you dont complete an assignment, you get $0. The latter also risks leading an editor to view you as someone who cant follow through on what youve promised. Since that same editor also controls your future assignments, missing an important article is not the wisest career move.

As I debated what to do next, I remembered that Id recently read a newspaper article that mentioned that Cuban personally reads all of his e-mails. The profile of Cuban detailed some of the ways that he was a non-traditional pro sports owner, including the tidbit that he was so fan-friendly that hes willing to interact with avid Mavs supporters via e-mail. Did I believe that he actually sits down to read all of his e-mails? To be honest, I was extremely skeptical, to say the least. But I figured, what do I have to lose? If I didnt do anything, I was probably going to miss out on a great opportunity.

So I looked up Cubans e-mail address online, then sat down and wrote a few paragraphs to him. I explained my situation, which publication I was writing for (Inside Stuff was the official magazine of the NBA), and also mentioned that I knew how important it was to him to promote the Mavericks nationally In the early 2000s, Cuban had taken the unprecedented step of buying full-page Dallas Mavericks advertisements in SLAM magazine something I dont believe any other NBA team has ever done which I also referenced in my e-mail.

I woke up the next morning on Oct. 29 and realized that I only had two days until my deadline. Just then, my phone rang. On the other end of the line was someone Id spoken to previously from the Mavericks PR department. He immediately said, Jim, how are you? Hey, Ive got Tim Hardaway here with me to do the interview.

From subsequent conversations I had with the Mavericks, I learned that Cuban had read what Id written, then immediately made sure that my interview request would take place as soon as possible. In this case, that meant less than 24 hours later.

I guess I never should have doubted you, Mr. Cuban. Apparently, you do read all of your e-mails.

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