What Business is the NBA in ?

It’s been a while since I have updated my post on what business in the NBA is in.  Seemed like now is as good a time as any !

Just as it has been for the past 7 or so year, I continue to get business proposals for new ways to alter the NBA in-game experience.  Without fail the proposal starts out with some form of “Today, everyone has a smartphone and can’t disconnect from their phone” Then I get the meat of the pitch which is some derivative of stats, Jumbotron pictures, fantasy games, gamification apps, instagram pics, social sharing, etc, etc.

They all seem to forget what business the NBA is in.

In order to understand why I hate these proposals you have to understand first what the Mavs sell. The NBA does not sell basketball !

Think back to the first professional sporting event you ever went to. It was probably a parent taking you to the game. What do you remember ? Do you remember the score ? A home run ? A jump shot ? A pass play ? Or do you remember who you were with ? I remember being with my dad at a Pirates game. My dad and my uncle at a Steeler’s game. Think about your fondest memories at a sporting event. Again, what do you remember ? Hanging with your buddies ? A first date ? A last date ? How you felt after the team won or loss ? A business partner or customer ? Or the score ? I’m guessing its not the score.

We in the sports business don’t sell the game, we sell unique, emotional experiences.We are not in the business of selling basketball. We are in the business of selling fun. We are in the business of letting you escape. We are experiential entertainment. We are in the business of giving you a chance to create shared experiences. I say it to our people at the Mavs at all time, I want a Mavs game to be more like a great wedding than anything else.

You know the wedding I’m talking about. The one where everyone is up dancing, smiling , cheering, laughing. The one where Grandma Ethel has her annual vodka gimlet and is singing “old town road” at the top of her lungs.  The one where the whole place still does the Macarena while laughing so hard they are crying. The one where everyone sings out loud to every song and you hug the cousin you haven’t seen in 10 years and hope you don’t see for another 10. It doesn’t matter if half the room doesn’t believe the couple will still be married at the end of the year. It matters if everyone in the place is having a great time. It matters if its the type of wedding that everyone in the room wished or wishes their wedding was or will be like this one. It matters that you leave the reception and your hands hurt from clapping , your mouth hurts from smiling so much and your throat is sore because you were laughing , singing and hollering so much. That’s a great wedding.

That’s how I want a Mavs game to be.

I want it to be very participatory. I want it to be very social. I want it to be very inclusive. I want it to be memorable. I want it to be so much fun people talk about it to their friends and can’t wait to go back. I want every parent to get tears in their eyes when they see their kids jumping up and down whether the score is 2 to 0. or 120 to 84. When they are chanting Lets Go Mavs . When they are dancing and trying to get on the jumbotron.

I want the guy on the date knowing that the longest he will have to talk is during halftime and then after the game, and until the next date, he can talk about the game itself and not have all the pressure of trying to think of something to say while his date can be relieved that she can enjoy the game without him talking. Or vice versa of course. I want everyone coming to a Mavs game to be able to find their own personal attachment to that night. I know I can’t control what happens on the court every game, but I can do my very best to make sure that no matter what the score, we have done all we can to make the fan experience like a great wedding.

IMHO, that means eliminating as many of the “look down” moments in the game as I possibly can. Once you sit in your seat, the only time I want you to look down is to pick up the soda or beer you set down under your seat and maybe to check your phone to see if you got a text from the sitter or your buddy about where to meet after the game.

I want you always looking up. Looking at the game and the entertainment in the arena. You can’t cheer if you aren’t watching. It’s my job to give you something other than the game to look up at.

It may be looking at the fun videos we put on the big screen to entertain you.

We are going to try everything and anything we can think of to make it fun and memorable. Just as a DJ responds to the energy and attitude at a Wedding in real-time and tries to choose the right song or activity to keep the fun and energy up, we try to do the same thing at a Mavs game. We recognize that what makes our games unique is that like a wedding, Grandma Ethel can be sitting next to a goth looking 16 year old she has never met before, and if both are watching when the Mavs hit a shot right as the 24 second buzzer sounds, they can high 5 each other like they are best friends. That if Grandma Ethel is chanting defense and being a key 6th man for her Mavs, the 16 year old will feel better about cupping his black nailed hands together to do the same. That if we put a fun video up on the big screen, they both might just sing along

Video and music are two simple components of what we do.

Part of what separates going to a game from watching at home is the energy.  The energy should start to build as you walk up to the American Airlines Center. It should build further as you see other excited fans inside.  It should grow with the introduction video.  We have continued to use Eminence Front as our intro video because we want everyone who has ever gone to a Mavs home game to have a common link. We want them to know the game is about to start and Eminence Front reminds them its time to take their energy to another level



I can’t think of a bigger mistake then trying to integrate smartphones just because you can. The last thing I want is someone looking down at their phone to see a replay. The last thing I want is someone thinking that its a good idea to disconnect from the unique elements of a game to look at replays or update their fantasy standings, their bets or concentrate on trying to predict what will happen next in the game. If there is a good reason to show this information, we can show it on the many screens in the arena.

There is a huge value to everyone collectively holding their breath during a replay, or responding to a great play or a missed call and then spontaneously reacting to what they see. We want people cheering or booing or chanting at the top of their lungs. We want everyone so intently watching the game they all simultaneously react to what just happened.

You lose that if people are looking down at their handhelds.  The fan experience is about looking up, not looking down. If you let them look down, they might as well stay at home, the screen is always going to be better there.

As in every business you have to always ask yourself what your product is and the best way to deliver it. In the NBA our product is fun, unique experiences and energy. The last thing we need to do is encourage our customers to stare at their phones.

Sports is the only place in life where we encourage you to yell and scream at the top of your lungs and clap for the good guys.  That is who we are. We have to do everything possible to encourage more of it !


23 thoughts on “What Business is the NBA in ?

  1. Mr. Cuban, just wanted to say I’m watching Shark Tank and saw you had knowledge previous of them pitching on Shark Tank about Urbio, did some research and they reached out to you on your blog. I tried reaching out to you on Dust, I found a loop hole where you can screen record without it notifying the other person in the conversation. Just wanted to say huge fan of Shark Tank, I started my own website Creation services, I’ve been hustling getting in contact with any business owner, you know landscaping, power washing, anyone who needs a website for their service or talent, I’m in their messages. I’m also working on freelancing websites getting projects going.
    I’m also working on something that I think you’d really be into, hopefully I can hear back from you or I’ll get you on your next blog post. Thanks Mr. Cuban, and I look forward to joining you in that comma club.
    Maybe I’ll hear from you – Mitchell Hall

    Comment by hiremitch -

  2. `Finally, FOund something for great read thankss

    Comment by Barry Erezi Urefe -

  3. A good read thank you!

    Comment by modularsessions -

  4. this was absolutely FANTASTIC MC! Thank you for the reminder about what any good business is selling- An Experience to remember! I could feel your enthusiasm and this was super inspiring. THANK YOU!!!!


    Comment by Krista Parkinson -

  5. Beat TRUMP. Think outside the box. The team approach.

    Comment by Tim Yock -

  6. Nice analysis Mark. I use the same words, more or less, to describe what we do at VidCon. We sell unique and emotional experiences too. Just before our recent event started in Anaheim I reminded the team that we were about to throw a party for 75,000 people who are coming for life-changing emotional, exciting, fun and fantastic experiences, and it was our job to make sure they had the most memorable time of the year – if not of their lives. I put your post on our slack channel, good reminder of the business we are in too!

    Comment by jlouderb -

  7. Well I agree with you on the smartphone thing as I once watched an entire Pirates game on TV and a “fan” looked at their dumbphone the entire game seated in the first row behind home plate. But for me it was always abut the game a pitcher and hitter battling each other, the speed and power of hockey, the teamwork and fast breaks in basketball, the big hits and long bombs in football, and then the players. The first time I saw Clemente run onto the field, the first Pitt football game on the first play of the game Dorsett ran 70 yards for a touchdown, seeing Mean Joe Greene at St. Vincent thinking he was the largest human being ever, Pops hitting a ball so far it still has not landed, the Cobra daring anyone to run on him, eyes glued to 66 for every second he was on the ice to see what he was going to do next, Big Ben to Santonio for the greatest catch in Super Bowl history. You know what I am talking about. Back in the day, we did not need loud music, laser shows, fancy arenas, giant scoreboards, cheerleaders, mascots, and all this other crap.
    It was the game, the players, and the fans themselves that created the excitement. We were fans not robots being told when to cheer or jeer. You may not want your fans to not look down but they are looking around and not at the game itself especially that sorry excuse of a basketball team you own. Football is not even close to the game we played growing up, baseball is a game of the haves and have nots, and the NBA is a joke with players trading 3 point attempts, no one playing fundamentals, palming the ball, not blocking out, no defense and half the time not even running down the court, I will stick with my memories of the Alcindor, the Dr., Bird and the original parquet floor, Magic and Showtime, and MJ in the last minute of the game. You better keep trying to create all that excitement because it sure is not about the game or the players anymore unless it`s a money issue, holdout, petty behavior, criminality and excessive abuse of social media.
    How much does it costs for a family of 4 to attend one of your weddings at American Airlines after transportation, traffic, parking, a couple of souvenirs, some concessions, and then the tickets? A thousand dollars, 1,500.00, more. Its all about the almighty dollar as the average hardworking taxpaying (for your arena) Americans can no longer afford it. You know the numbers Mark attendance and TV ratings are declining in every major sport across the board. No, to the sports experience of today other than hockey which still has every skill an athlete in any other sport has and they put it on display game after game for 60 minutes. I am content to still attend many weddings just not yours along with parties, cookouts, family and life achievements and celebrations or a simple day with friends tossing a frisbee or playing wiffle ball in the park always looking up and without my dumbphone or having to rob a bank.

    Comment by kwdo -

  8. Pingback: Mark Cuban, el propietario de una franquicia que asegura que el negocio de la NBA no es vender básquet – Analitica Sports

  9. Idea for you Mark, people can check their phones into lockers before the game, people who do it will get a voucher for refreshments, discount on a future game, or straight cash! People love stuff for free, from $5 t-shirts to burgers at fast food restaurants; most giveaways there’s a catch, fill out an application, take a tour of a timeshare, but in this case the reward is instantly tangible. I’ll give you my phone right now.

    Comment by matthewdebritz -

  10. Game, set, match! Every Guest Experience/Innovator that wants to change the InGame Experience should read this article EVERY DAY FOR 30 DAYS. This is why Mark Cuban is who he is.

    Comment by Alex Vergara (@avergaraupdate) -

  11. Although I do agree with the nostalgic experiences and memories tied to attending sporting events, the examples are from days gone by when families could go to a professional sporting event without taking out a second mortgage so billonaires could make billions and high school dropouts could make millions. Although I can well afford it, I refuse to build memories on the back of $12 beers and $10 hot dogs. Memories? I can take my family on a mini vacation to get great memories for far less than the cost of taking them to an NBA game where my main memory is one of being ripped off.

    Comment by Michael C Dillon -

  12. Great post. Thanks for sharing.


    Comment by jasonmuell -

  13. Great read.


    Comment by Katy Bea -

  14. I keep wondering what the rebuttal to your article is, but apparently I’m not allowed to look down at my Smart Phone to find out (that was a joke, plus I don’t even have a Smart phone).

    Comment by Alessandro Machi -

  15. 2000ft2 – Own a part of history (Wrigley Field Adjacent) May
    land commercial
    3710 N Kenmore Ave

    Own a part of history. One of the few properties not yet owned by the Cubs corporation. Steps away from the proposed open air plaza, hotel, and street faire that all will be open year round. With more night games and Wrigley Field open to more concerts, the zoning for this property opens to many possibilities. Truly unique opportunity to leverage this property’s status as the first boundary-line building defining The Wrigley Field Adjacent Area w/ special zoning rights (see Chapt 4-388 of the Municipal Code of Chicago). Approx 536 ft from home plate. Once structure is torn down, highest-and-best use might include advertising or special club license. Zoned RT4 with hospitality license possibility which includes possible food and liquor license. Please see additional documents for the full building code.

    Comment by francesca5619 -

  16. So, not even look down at your phone to open our cameras and take photos huh…..funny…..

    Rolando Pretto Sent from my iPhone


    Comment by anonymous -

  17. Wow, I’m not even into basketball or sports in general and your ideal scene of a game makes me want to go to one!

    It’s no wonder you’ve been able to rocket into affluence and stay there.

    You seem intimately aware of the experience of every type of person who goes to a game. The boy friend AND even the girlfriend. The kids, the parents… etc

    Thanks for sharing Mark!


    Comment by nickhartforreal -

  18. The world is full of singular experiences, quite often we remember none of them, they often don’t hold value and therefore no memory is created. Smartphones have shifted so much of how we communicate into a singular experience. Now more than ever we need more communal experiences, with friends, loved ones and eve strangers. We need shared experiences, because that’s how people bond, resolve differences and grow together. Kudos to you Mark for sharing this, keep up the work in creating a platform to bring people together.

    Comment by Tommy Grant (@tommy_grant) -

  19. I am coming from an entirely different perspective and agree with the experience and energy felt. I love sports, as a woman I came into the love of the games a little later in life, however I have a love and passion for the game, in our home when watching our dogs even hide from our excitment, its a good time ( have videos of it). I however have a child that is visually impared, seeing a game in person in which he has, a mavericks game as well- shares a different experience, he feels the energy, the energy of the fans and the people who are around him. My son is now 29 and does not readily go as it is easier to watch at home with play by play action in his ear, however he loves the experience. I also have had the great opportunity to meet some of the staff and they share the same enthusiastic energy that is felt at the game! I like having the real experience and being in the moment and living in the now. Good blog. Thanks Michelle Knipe

    Comment by Tax Minimizers (@taxminimizers) -

  20. Mark. It would be hard for be to argue your point. I do not have the success or experience that you have and you always bring a good product. I do have to say that the game still the number one thing. IN your case the basketball. You are able to choose and do these things because your always for many years have brought a solid team and made good moves. If, in the this case the NBA, the team is not strong, and tickets are a bit on the high price even for middle class Americans, the organization will have to go with what is entertaining. Mobile devices. Specially for the ones growing. Pirates, Steelers, that was other times. There has to bit kinda a middle ground. JMR

    Comment by Manny Rosario (@MannyRosario) -

  21. Absolutely right. With today’s giant tv screens the only thing you can use to differentiate yourself at a live event is the experience and the emotional. Same thing when brick and mortar tries to compete with Amazon. You will not beat them on price and ease so, again, experience and emotional is what can help you succeed.

    Comment by krbmedia -

  22. Every brand is about creating that emotional connection because that’s what you remember, not the specifics. Besides big games, I almost never remember the outcome … just the people I was with and how much fun it was. Watching a sporting event by yourself is not as much fun as watching it with others, even if they’re strangers in a bar or friends who have no rooting interest.

    Comment by Jim Wang -

  23. Mark, you absolutely nailed it. I’ve told several friends that the music, the lights and the other things you do cause such a powerful sensory experience that when most people leave a game, they’re a little pleasantly dazed like we use to be when we went to a dazzling rock concert. Sure, it’s more fun when the Mavs win but with your overall presentation I’d bet a lot of money that only a miniscule number of people have ever left a game thinking it was a waste of time or money. (As someone who now watches your games on tv, I’m really looking forward to seeing Luka and Kristap playing together this year.) Let’s go Mavs!

    Comment by Kevin McCarthy -

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