Mark Cuban compares NBA ownership to drowning in shallow water, makes poor analogy

Eric Freeman
August 23, 2012

A year ago at this time, when the NBA was still in the midst of a lockout, owners and players haggled over splitting basketball-related income in a way that would allow franchises to turn a profit. Despite not opening up its books or proving losses in any other way, the league eventually got enough of what it wanted that owners could anticipate a much healthier financial future. Never mind that all owners involved were probably going to turn a sizable profit anyway whenever they decided to sell their franchises for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Nevertheless, the lockout ended up being a net positive for the owners. However, they're not done, and will likely try to extract more concessions from the players' union the next time they renegotiate the collective bargaining agreement. If you don't believe that, just listen to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who came up with a helpful analogy to demonstrate the problem. From a radio interview with Mark Cuban on "The Ben and Skin Show" in Dallas (as transcribed by Sports Radio Interviews, via PBT):

Did you and some of the other big-name owners fail with the new CBA?:

"We certainly didn't achieve all we needed to achieve. I've said it multiple times that in the old CBA, financially, teams were drowning in 10 feet of water, now we're drowning in two feet of water. It'll be interesting. Obviously the Nets just went out and spent a boatload of money. It'll be interesting to see if that works for them or against them."

I understand the basic idea of this analogy — the situation was really bad, and now it's better, but it's still dangerous. However, Cuban unwittingly made owners out to look a little silly, because only very small children could drown in two feet of water. At that depth, most able-bodied adults would just put their feet on the bottom and stand, due to the fact that the water wouldn't even come up to their waists.

Of course, the trouble with this analogy helps expose a problem with this line of thinking: At what point, exactly, will owners be safe? If two feet of water is dangerous, then couldn't six inches also cause drowning? And once the water is completely gone, will the owners be in danger of drought? Will water then be useful? And once that water is introduced, will it become a major danger again? What exactly does the water stand for here? Does Mark Cuban hate baths?

These are all relevant questions, given the parameters of the analogy. Unfortunately, I'm not sure Cuban has a simple answer for them. As we learned just one day ago — via the same radio interview, in fact — Cuban can sometimes let his emotions get the better of him. In this case, his bank account seems to be affecting his logic.