- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS -- Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban might mess up his reputation as the chief nemesis for outgoing NBA commissioner David Stern.
Cuban's fine total from the league office for various infractions during his 14-year ownership tenure have reached seven figures, and he has publicly criticized the commissioner on several occasions. However, Cuban is speaking glowingly of Stern leading up to the commissioner's Feb. 1 retirement after 30 years on the job.
"I love David," Cuban said during a Tuesday interview on NBA TV. "I mean, David and I have banged heads a couple times, [but] the truth be told, David Stern made me. Nobody knew who Mark Cuban was until he started fining the hell out of me and sent me to work at Dairy Queen. So he made my job of selling tickets a lot easier."
"David took us internationally. Even when I came in, I wasn't a big proponent of international, and David was there. David was a big proponent of digital -- the Internet -- [and] I remember sitting down talking to him. Even before I bought the team [in Jan. 2000], he invited me in to talk about streaming and the Internet. I helped him set up his first Twitter account. He was always open-minded about expanding into new areas and you really have to respect that."
"Despite the fact that we disagreed on a lot of things, we really agreed on far more. I'll miss him. I really like David."
Cuban worked a day at a Dairy Queen as a publicity stunt in Jan. 2002 after the league fined him $500,000 for declaring that he wouldn't hire then-NBA head of officiating Ed Rush to manage a Dairy Queen. He has said the $500,000 fine was the best marketing investment he could have made for the Mavs.
Another of Cuban's heaviest, most memorable fines was $250,000 for his behavior during the 2006 NBA Finals, when the Mavs lost to the Miami Heat in six games, a series remembered in Dallas for controversial officiating. Cuban mocked Stern the next season by claiming that he attended "David Stern University" over the summer to learn how an NBA owner should act.
Cuban occasionally wore a "David Stern University" T-shirt during the 2006-07 season, particularly when he made national TV appearances. He said recently he still has the T-shirt and plans to wear it on Stern's final day in office. A laughing Cuban also said he's determined to be assessed the final fine of Stern's tenure.
4hSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann