DALLAS — Villains is how Mark Cuban thinks fans still view the two-time champion Miami Heat, and that’s great for the NBA, he says.
The owner of the Dallas Mavericks on Friday compared the LeBron James-led Heat to the Oakland Raiders in their glory days — saying fans either love ‘em or hate ‘em, and that polarization makes for a far more intriguing league for fans, and heightens the competitive juices of rivals.
Cuban’s 2011 Mavs remain the lone team to beat Miami in the postseason since James took his talents to South Beach before the 2010-11 season.
“With the two titles, they’re still like the bad guys,” Cuban said. “There’s a confidence bordering on arrogance that is good for them as a team and good for us as a league because it also makes them the team that everybody wants to knock off.
“They’re kind of in some respects the Oakland Raiders … when they were winning. I don’t want to compare [Heat owner] Mickey [Arison] to Al Davis, that’s not fair, but you either love them or hate them. That’s always good for the NBA when you have a team that everybody looks forward to beating. It’s just like when we beat them, I would go in places I’ve never been and people would give me a standing ovation. That’s good for the NBA.”
In 2011, the Mavs had the city of Cleveland and, seemingly, an entire nation behind them against the villainous Heat in their inaugural season as the Big Three, with James and Chris Bosh having joined Dwyane Wade through free agency. Basketball fans recoiled at James’ disastrous “The Decision” on ESPN when he infamously announced his departure from Cleveland for Miami. Fans who once worshiped James had turned fiercely against him and the Heat.
That wasn’t the case in 2006 when Shaquille O’Neal helped Wade win his first championship as the Heat rallied from a 2-0 hole to beat the Mavs in six games.
On Friday, Cuban made a rare appearance at the Mavs’ practice court. His visit came two days after having spent the previous two weeks fighting a different kind of court battle. On Wednesday Cuban was exonerated in a SEC insider trading case. Cuban said his attorney fees to fight the government’s charges were far greater than the fine he faced if found guilty.
“It wasn’t a maxed-out contract,” Cuban said, “but it was in shouting range.”