Mark Cuban: fearless ‘sport’ from Pittsburgh

I read recently in our daily paper that Mark Cuban “is once again innovating in the digital space, launching a new kind of online art gallery for creators in Dallas and beyond.” Why am I not surprised?
I don’t know Mark personally, but as a native Pittsburgher — which he is, also — I may know more about him than some others. I know in what neighborhood he grew up: not the more better-known “Jewish center” called Squirrel Hill, where I went to high school myself, with Mark’s uncle as one of my classmates. At one of our reunions — early on in Mark’s activity here, but well enough along for me to pose the question — I asked his uncle, “Larry, what’s what with your nephew?” The response: “I have no idea. We’re still trying to figure him out ourselves…”
But I think I may have figured him out, all by myself. Mark Cuban is what might at one time have been called a “sport”: a member of a species born into the species, but differing markedly from the expected. While others in his high school (not the one Uncle Larry and I attended) may have been living more usual student lives, Mark was spending his time alone with basketball — not actively playing, but quite actively listening and learning. My image of him is being alone in a small bedroom with images of all kinds from the sport he most loved. So Mark Cuban was — indeed — a “sport” of a kind…
And when he was good and ready, not before, he made his move. We’ve all seen, and continue to see, the results. That solitary, basketball-obsessed kid from Pittsburgh emerged as a brilliant expert on what he loved most and knew best. I would guess that, unlike Cousin Larry and the rest of the Pittsburgh Cuban family, Dallas got to know much more quickly than Mark’s home what he was really all about. It was all basketball. And a specialist’s knowledge of it, as with any subject, may reap rich rewards. In this case, the richest reward of all: his ownership of a team, fulfillment of a dream.
Of course, I’m speculating. We all are when trying to judge the character of a “sport” who doesn’t follow the usual rules.
But look at what we’ve learned! Since Mark Cuban’s move here, we’ve found out that he’s a fearless risk-taker — that he has amassed a fortune and knows what to do, or not do, with it — that he’s a kitten at home but a tiger with his team — and that he’s not afraid to “jump,” as the newspaper article so aptly put it, into a new “digital assets venture.” Once again, he’s shooting off the court for his own basket.
Mark Cuban was cast in the mold of other Pittsburghers who took great chances and made great things happen — for themselves, and for others. People like H.J. Heinz, Andrew Carnegie, Rachel Carson, Jonas Salk, Andy Warhol, Gene Kelly, Joe Montana and Fred Rogers: all risk-takers, people with open minds and no fear of facing challenges, whatever they might be: the derisive laughter — the lack of moral or monetary support — the tenacious search for what they wanted for self, and to give away. And I salute Mark Cuban for earning his place among those others!
I guess every city, given the chance, could come up with its own list of recognizable “greats.” But my city — Mark Cuban’s city — doesn’t need a chance, doesn’t even need to think twice. Way to go, Mark Cuban! And may you have continued great success in your newest venture!
Harriet Gross can be reached at

Leave a Reply