Live the Dream

Mark Cuban on buying the Mavs: 'I did it because I love basketball'

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Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler

It's been 19 years since billionaire Mark Cuban bought NBA team the Dallas Mavericks.

For $280 million, Cuban became the majority stakeholder in the professional Texas basketball team in 2000, and his motives had nothing to with money.

"Never crossed my mind as an investment. I did it because I love basketball," Cuban, 60, tells CNBC Make It on Friday.

Indeed, the star of ABC's "Shark Tank" recently shared a 10-minute clip of interviews he did at the time.

"I love the Mavericks," he says in a 2000 interview. "I am just a huge Mavericks fan. And I have just been blessed and put in a position where I can contribute."

He was all in: "This is a business, but it is a business that I am willing to commit as much money as it takes. Whatever energy, funding, to make this team successful," a 41-year-old Cuban says in the clip.

When he first became the owner of the team, Cuban knew he had a lot to learn.

"If you look at winning teams in the NBA, there has been a level of continuity to all of them. So, my focus is not going to be okay let's go in there and make immediate changes, my focus is going to be, let's go in there and learn. Let's see how things are operating and what's working and what's not working," Cuban says in 2000.

It was the first private company he did not found himself that he invested in, he tells CNBC Make It.

"Just like Broadcast.com and other businesses before that, it is time to go to work," Cuban said in 2000. "And it's time to really focus on the things I need to do and first is learning, getting fans into the arena and getting people excited and I think we are making significant progress there."

Since then, the Dallas Mavericks have had 15 winning seasons, one 500-season (meaning the team won the same number of games as it lost), and two losing seasons, according to the sports data site Basketball-Reference.com.

In 2011, the Mavs won the NBA league finals.

For the tech entrepreneur — who became a billionaire for selling the online streaming company Broadcast.com he co-founded to Yahoo.com and who is currently worth $3.9 billion according to Forbes — learning and putting in hard work is his MO.

Cuban grew up in a working class family in Pittsburgh ("People thought I might go work at a mill ... "Nobody had high hopes for me," he has said). After graduating from the University of Illinois, he arrived in Dallas with $60 to his name.

"I mean, I remember I couldn't pay more than $10 a [Mavs] game," Cuban recalled in 2000.

He became a self-taught techie: "I would stay up nights, you know, teaching myself how to program. I spent seven, almost eight years just writing software for local area networks and it was just part of an ongoing learning process," he said on "The Jamie Weinstein Show" podcast. "Back in the day when I was that young kid, that's how I got an edge."

"I tell people all the time, the one thing in life you can control is your effort," Cuban told Weinstein.

Though he didn't buy the Mavs to multiply his own investment, the franchise has grown since Cuban bought it. The franchise is worth $1.9 billion, according to a February calculation by Forbes.

There have been non-fiscal benefits, too, like playing pick-up with pros. "What would you feel like as a kid, coming out and playing one-on-one with one of the best guys in the NBA. It's, it's, it's awesome," Cuban said in 2000.

And now? Any regrets?

"Seriously? Lol. No," Cuban tells CNBC Make It.

See also:

How Mark Cuban went from a working-class family in Pittsburgh to a self-made billionaire

Mark Cuban thinks there is no good reason for any 'sane person' to wear a suit to work

Mark Cuban remembers the exact moment he became a billionaire (Spoiler: It involves a 'naked billionaire dance')