All series long, the majority of NBA fans wanted Dallas to win the Championship not just because they hated the Heat, but also for the comical/awkward exchange that would have been Commissioner David Stern handing the Larry O’Brien Trophy to nemesis Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
Would Stern say any nice words to Cuban’s face? Would Cuban laugh in Stern’s face and give him a huge, sweaty t-shirt hug? Would the universe implode as the two rivals touched the trophy at the same time?
Instead the commish handed the trophy to Don Carter, the Mavericks’ original owner from the franchise’s beginnings in 1980. The iconic 78-year-old still attends Dallas games wearing a large white cowboy hat and looked happy as a (insert some funny Texas phrase that involves a “witch’s tit” or “long-tailed cat” or “two-legged cow” or some such nonsense) to be on stage. Carter quickly handed the trophy over to Cuban who never ended up next to Stern. Presentation MC Stuart Scott said that Cuban requested the trophy be presented to Carter and not himself, which I don’t doubt, but you have to think some of Stern’s people talked to some of Cuban’s people ahead of time to make sure a compromise like this happened.
Considering almost every fan I’ve talked to in the last week, even in passing, about this Finals mentioned how funny it would be to watch Stern “have to” give the trophy to Cuban, it was certainly a situation the league’s front office was aware of and didn’t want to have seen on TV. If anything, it would put more people on Cuban’s “side” in the rivalry. Even if it was the league that orchestrated for the trophy to go to Cuban through Carter, the compromise was a good one.
Stern saved some face by not “having to” hand anything other than fines to Cuban; in fact, he never even looked at the owner. Cuban seemed genuinely humble on the stage and went out of his way to deflect all of Scott’s praise and comments to his coach and the players, so letting Carter be central to the whole trophy presentation ceremony only makes Cuban look better. Carter got some shine for being the man responsible for an NBA team existing in Dallas in the first place. Everyone was rightly cool with the unconventional manner in which it went down.
But first thing Monday, I’m sure Stern will be back to looking into if Cuban should be fined for being on the Mavs’ bench in the closing minute of the game.