Mark Cuban tries to get NBA fans to narc on themselves

Nice try, FBI Marc

Being the businessman that Mark Cuban is, sometimes he would like information directly from the public. The people in the big office chairs may not give credence to what the masses think. If they want to remove the most highly-regarded name in the history of television from an app they will, despite our objections, but they do still want the information. Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals is the NBA’s biggest game of the season to date, so as one of the league’s 30 franchise owners, Cuban decided to hold an impromptu focus group about pirated streams.

Cuban went to the social media platform with the most robust NBA conversation — Twitter — and decided to directly ask the users if they were using an alternative source to watch the Miami Heat defeat the Boston Celtics 103-84 on Sunday night.

The result was the owner of the Dallas Mavericks being given a new nickname — Narc Cuban. Only if he was wearing a Mavericks uniform and assigned to defend the basket during a game would he have been dunked on with more consistency and voracity. Actually, what happened on Twitter would still be worse. At least during a game he could tackle a player in mid-air and get ejected.

Nice try, FBI Mark Narc Cuban

There is no way to stop the memes of him being a ham-handed informant. I should have made one with Cuban’s face on that trash can in the car insurance commercial about the poor undercover agent.

Maybe Cuban has been curious about this subject for a while. He is as much of an NBA fan as those of us who didn’t side-step out of the dot-com bubble at the perfect time. Cuban might simply want to know all of the ways that fans are accessing the game these days.

Or maybe his cable went out. If YouTube TV can malfunction for viewers of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals nationwide, then there certainly could have been a malfunction at his palatial estate. At that point, he would be just another NBA fan scrambling to find a way to view an important game. It happened to me during Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. Being that I wasn’t an NBA owner at that time, I could treat the downtown connector in Atlanta like a Grand Prix to get to a bar and enjoy the game in anonymity.

There is also the possibility that Cuban was using this question to get the Elon blue checks to reveal the sources of unauthorized NBA streams. Thus allowing him and his billionaire brethren to do what they did to the NBA Streams subreddit in 2019, saddening broke fans of the league across the globe by getting it shut down.

Only Cuban knows his motivations. Being that he is an NBA franchise owner, I doubt that he has a favorable opinion of the ways that unlicensed servers distribute the televised product. I also highly doubt that the NBA is counting on a question that Cuban posed on Twitter to be what swings the battle against pirate streams in their favor. If that is the best that the league’s legal team can do, then how has no one challenged the existence of the NBA Draft, age eligibility, or the salary cap and won yet?

What is indisputably true about Cuban’s inquiry is that it provided an excellent opportunity for NBA fans to dunk on a billionaire. That group goes through great effort to suppress the free market when it comes to player salaries, fight with television providers and the result is fewer people having access to their local team’s games, and reward referees for making the game about themselves.

Fortunately, it has proved impossible to ruin a product as great as the NBA, but that fact doesn’t stop the powers that be from trying. So anytime that one of them wants to offer themselves as tribute to the fans, we are here to roast that person like a s’more.

Epic upsets, stellar QBs, and the most notable sports moments of the first half of 2023

Image for article titled Epic upsets, stellar QBs, and the most notable sports moments of the first half of 2023

Take a deep breath before I reveal a stunning fact, it’s almost June. Some of you were just pulling out the trusty snow blower and now it’s swimsuit season — I hope your diet went better than mine.

With the sports calendar nearly halfway over, there has been a full year’s worth of activity. Take a look back at some of the most notable sports moments from the first half of the year.

Image for article titled Epic upsets, stellar QBs, and the most notable sports moments of the first half of 2023

Kirby Smart is sitting on top of the college football mountain in a way that no team has outside of Tuscaloosa. Well, at least since those two years with that team from Los Angeles that the NCAA has declared never happened. The Dawgs won their second-consecutive championship, and did so in dominating fashion.

Georgia lost 15 players to the NFL Draft in April 2022 and did not miss a beat. The Dawgs almost threw up that game in Missouri, but even with that loss, they would have gone to the SEC Championship Game. The rest of the schedule was a wash until New Year’s Eve. Ohio State put on its best performance of the season at Georgia’s second home in Atlanta, but hooked that 50-yard field goal right as the ball dropped in Times Square.

In the National Championship Game Georgia got back to kicking ass with a literal historic 65-7 shellacking of TCU in the title game.

Image for article titled Epic upsets, stellar QBs, and the most notable sports moments of the first half of 2023

An MVP candidate during the regular season, but outside of Philadelphia respect was grudgingly granted to him as a star. During the playoffs the Eagles plowed through its opposition using their dominance at the line of scrimmage — and the San Francisco 49ers not having a quarterback physically able to throw a football in the NFC Championship Game.

In the Super Bowl, Hurts went toe-to-toe against arguably the greatest player in the history of the NFL and stuck with him play-for-play. This player — pulled at halftime of a National Championship Game for a true freshman — put the exclamation point on a spectacular season.

Jalen Hurts was one of the two best players in the NFL last season.

Image for article titled Epic upsets, stellar QBs, and the most notable sports moments of the first half of 2023

The best player in the NFL. The MVP. While the Kansas City Chiefs were not doubted in the way that Travis Kelce wants the world to believe, there were certainly questions about Patrick Mahomes. Some defensive coordinator really wanted to get something off of his chest when he said that Mahomes played streetball, but also wasn’t chesty enough to put his name on it.

At one time the ABA was considered too playground, but modern NBA players have games much more reminiscent of Julius Erving and George Gervin than John Havlicek and Lou Hudson. The same way that Joe Burrow is far more like Patrick Mahomes than Peyton Manning.

Mahomes took it all last season. The MVP, the championship, and all of the grit points for playing two-and-a-half postseason games with that brutal high-ankle sprain. He is a player of the likes the NFL has never seen and deserves to be respected as such.

Image for article titled Epic upsets, stellar QBs, and the most notable sports moments of the first half of 2023

It was a seismic event when 16-seed UMBC defeated 1-seeded Virginia in the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. The moment that sports fans didn’t think would ever happen, but still waited for with bated breath. That loss was so embarrassing that it served as the ultimate redemption narrative for Virginia’s 2019 championship.

The unthinkable happened again when Purdue lost to Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round. With the transient nature of men’s college basketball, we have come to expect upsets, but this is still only the second time that a 16-seed has advanced. Upsets may be common, but not this one.

Image for article titled Epic upsets, stellar QBs, and the most notable sports moments of the first half of 2023

College basketball with actual star power. The National Championship Game was not as competitive throughout as the semifinal matchup between LSU and South Carolina. It was still able to give the sports-viewing public what is uncommon in the modern men’s game, true star collegiate basketball personalities in Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark. That is why this matchup was the highest-rated women’s college basketball game of all time.

Both stars fit hand-in-glove with their programs, and it was obvious the moment that the starters for Reese’s Tigers and Clark’s Hawkeyes were introduced. Clark fired away from behind the arc as best as she could to keep them in the game, but LSU was too much.

There was even a national dog whistle conversation about sportsmanship that followed. Reese and Clark brought the culture wars back to college basketball matchups. For those who pine for the 1980s and 1990s version of college basketball, the women have it for you.

Image for article titled Epic upsets, stellar QBs, and the most notable sports moments of the first half of 2023

Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak might be the only record left that is considered unbreakable. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played for 20 seasons and scored 38,325 points in his career. Who would even have the longevity to approach that mark?

Enter LeBron James. His constant greatness from Year 1 to Year 20 allowed him to break the NBA record that no one ever expected to fall. There will always be a debate over who is better between Michael Jordan and LeBron. That record won’t bump Lebron to No. 1 in the minds of most Jordan fans, but it is an undeniable win over His Airness.

Image for article titled Epic upsets, stellar QBs, and the most notable sports moments of the first half of 2023

From the Western Conference Finals to trading two starters and a first-round pick for Kyrie Irving and getting fined for tanking after missing the postseason entirely.

Watching the Mavericks struggle with last season’s team — sans Jalen Brunson — was one thing. However, a team unable to string together wins with both Irving and Luka Dončić was downright hilarious. Mark Cuban bet the farm on an unpredictable, undersized scoring guard who might not even re-sign with the Mavericks this offseason. Also, with the Mavericks’ depth weakened, their defense was atrocious. They struggled to stay in front of their own reflection.

The Mavericks got lucky last season when the top-seeded Phoenix Suns imploded during their second-round matchup. This season it was the Mavericks who put the spotlight on themselves with the Irving trade and melted.

Image for article titled Epic upsets, stellar QBs, and the most notable sports moments of the first half of 2023

The alleged incidents at first were head-scratching — the fight, the mall, the mysterious laser. All curious, but nothing that could fully be substantiated. Then Morant decided to provide evidence beyond reasonable doubt of him being a knucklehead on camera when he flashed a gun not once, but twice on Instagram.

That’s when his safety first started to become a concern, because if anyone is going to suffer the tragic consequences that can come with brandishing a firearm, probability and systemic racism says that it will most likely be a man of Morant’s age and ethnicity.

Now with a wellness check being called for Morant after his cryptic “Bye” social media post, safety is really the only concern for this young man at this point

Image for article titled Epic upsets, stellar QBs, and the most notable sports moments of the first half of 2023

In an NBA Playoffs lacking dominant teams, there is one playing 5,280 feet higher than everyone else. That sweep of the Lakers was hard fought, but also a moment when the Nuggets stuck their flag in the ground as the class of the NBA.

When healthy, their starting lineup has been as good as any in the NBA. On a true national stage against the NBA’s most recognizable franchise and face, the Nuggets put on a show. They dominated, they stumbled, they struggled, and through four games forced sports fans all over the world to acknowledge them as a special team.

Image for article titled Epic upsets, stellar QBs, and the most notable sports moments of the first half of 2023

That damn hockey. No. 8 seeds advancing is far more common in the NHL than MLB and most certainly the NBA. Still, the Panthers didn’t qualify for the playoffs until the final moments of the regular season.

They then launched the President’s Cup curse at the Boston Bruins like the stinger from Mortal Kombat’s Scorpion. Next up was Canada, and this squad out of South Florida melted the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Back to the states they came to play the Carolina Hurricanes. It took five combined overtimes, for the Panthers to take a 2-0 series. They won again at home 1-0 in Game 3, and the rink in Sunrise, Fla. was rocking on Wednesday night.

The game was another barnburner with the Hurricanes appearing to send the game into overtime by scoring with less than three minutes remaining in regulation. Then came the shot heard ‘round Broward County. The Panthers took the lead on a goal from Matthew Tkachuk with 4.3 seconds remaining in the game.

No more encores for LeBron James and the Lakers

Looks like the carriage is about to turn back into a pumpkin for the Lakers.

The Los Angeles Lakers and their fan base have been hit with a heavy dose of reality in the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets. They’ve been a nice “redemption” story after bouncing back from a horrible start to the season, but it’s all over. On Saturday night, the Lakers fell into a 3-0 hole that not even the great LeBron James could help them escape. The fans had begun to believe again, and most expected them to win coming into this series against Denver.

No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit

Lakers fans can jump online and show all the fake hubris they want, but this thing is over. No NBA team has ever come back from being down three games to zero. In fact, only three teams have come back to tie a series after falling behind in such a manner.

The New York Knicks fell into that 3-0 hole before losing the 1951 Finals to the Rochester Royals in seven games. In ’94, the Denver Nuggets nearly pulled off the impossible a second time but were eliminated in seven by the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference Semifinals. They’d already made history by defeating the Seattle Supersonics in five games as the No. 8 seed in the first round. Then finally, in ’03, the Portland Trailblazers lost to the Dallas Mavericks in seven games in their first-round series.

So, there is some hope and precedent for teams climbing back into such a series,’ but it’s not often we see 3-0 become 3-3 and head to game seven. In all three instances where teams came back after being down 3-0, they were all the visiting team and had to play that game seven on the road. Yet another obstacle to overcome that no franchise has been able to do.

But it’s been 20 years since the Blazers climbed back into that series against the Mavs, and this is LeBron’s 20th season in the association, so maybe that’s the silver lining. Lakers fans are looking for anything to cling onto at this point, but the time for talking is done. It was a nice run, and the ’22-23 Lakers made it further than anyone could’ve predicted. The Lakers are all about hanging banners, but this time, it seems they’ll have to settle for second in the west. 

The most difficult part of failure is living with it

The Point God is hurt again

One of my favorite title teams ever was the 2006 Miami Heat, and it wasn’t because of Dwyane Wade or Shaquille O’Neal. There were three elder players on that squad who I thought deserved the validation that comes with a ring, and it was great seeing happiness ooze out of Gary Payton, Jason Williams, and Alonzo Mourning. While all significantly past their primes, the trio contributed to that championship, adorning their careers with the proverbial cherry on top.

Like or fear it because he’s set to make $30 million each of the next two seasons, it’s painfully obvious that Chris Paul is in the late-stage Glove, White Chocolate, or Zo part of his NBA tenure, and after Monday’s injury, the prospects of getting that career-achievement title this year aren’t great.

Suns were already lacking depth

The Phoenix Suns were thin before Paul got hurt, and even if he can gut out the rest of the series against the Denver Nuggets, I don’t think it’ll be enough to flip the outcome because he was barely effective before the groin tightness sidelined him. Devin Booker and Kevin Durant are logging an irresponsible amount of minutes just to keep games competitive, and the supporting cast is a shit show.

Cam Payne is back and was a minus-16 in 17 minutes. Damion Lee logged six rebounds, two assists, and no points in 26 minutes of action. With Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray essentially canceling out Durant and Booker, the spotlight is on the role players. Seeing as Phoenix traded anyone who’s worth a shit to Brooklyn in the KD deal, it’s easy to see how they find themselves in an 0-2 hole.

The last time these two teams met in the playoffs, it was the “Suns in Four” series where Denver got its ass kicked on the court and in the stands, so I’m not surprised that the Nuggets are actively seeking retribution. Honestly — and don’t let Durant and Book see this — the Suns should feel fine bowing out at this juncture. What’s the point of trading your asset cache for a superstar if he pops a tendon trying to churn cream into butter?

From the seven playoff games I’ve seen, the KD-Book tandem has championship potential and pedigree. It sucks they’ll have to do it all over again next year, and nothing is guaranteed, which is why both will likely play 40-plus minutes the rest of the way, but I don’t see a path to a title or the Finals this year that doesn’t involve injuries to opponents or match-fixing.

However, the biggest impediment to the Suns filling in the cracks around their two stars and making a run next year is Paul’s contract.

Can’t restructure, so gotta re-something

Being a team leader doesn’t merit $30 million per year — look at Udonis Haslem — but unfortunately restructuring for a pay cut isn’t really a thing under the NBA’s current CBA. So even if Paul wanted to take less money, I’m not sure he could.

That’s an issue because while his numbers this season weren’t terrible, the eye test the past two playoffs has been alarming. In the first round of 2022, Jose Alvarado was up in Paul’s jersey so much that the Suns’ needed a different ballhandler to bring the ball up, and the Clippers employed similar pressure last round.

If Paul can’t consistently perform the basic functions of a point guard, while shooting 32 percent on wide-open threes, Phoenix is going to need a legit backup PG in addition to everything else. The good news is it’s never been easier to find a capable guard in this league. The bad news is they’ll probably be picking off the discard pile because they have nothing to trade.

Who knows, perhaps CP3 is counting on that extra $60 million because he’s halfway in on a Greek island with brother Cliff, or he just doesn’t want to forgo $60 million, but the only answers to Phoenix’s conundrum are a Paul retirement announcement, or an unpredictable CP-third-stage-of-his-career resurgence. I’m talking 2011 Jason Kidd on the Mavs hitting set shots and doing administrative duties at $8.5 million Jason Kidd. Getting out of the way and going full role player is the next logical phase for Paul.

Flipping Deandre Ayton for parts is tempting, and a center-by-committee approach might work, but the Suns will need vets on minimums, other ring chasers taking fliers, and every other trick in the maxed-out contender playbook in order to make a run at the title.

The drawback of being good enough to get your team in the playoffs year after year but never dominant enough to will a team to a title is front offices will shell out large contracts to spite their roster just to make the postseason. It’s not Paul’s fault they gave him a weighty bag. It’s simply the nature of the business.

Life is often unfair, and cruelly so for NBA stars on the fringe. Not every ring chaser gets their wish, and maybe a couple of years ago was the CP3’s best chance to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy. The most difficult part of regrets and what-ifs is sitting with them, and accepting that you can never change what happened.

That’s it. That’s all I got. No silver lining, no grand meaning behind a storied career. Just a human being staring at the possibility of going through life with his dream unfulfilled.