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Cuban's 'next level' idea for rewards rings hollow

by | CBSSports.com Columnist
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Mark Cuban has never been hotter, as in more admired. He won his NBA title. He didn't steal the show; in fact, he deferred to a remarkably gracious degree. He overtipped to people who deserved it. He was the world's greatest boss.

OK, except maybe getting caught at business in the loo with the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Going tackle out with the game's biggest prop in your free hand isn't exactly taking the low profile.

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But he did manage one significant error in this, his time of ultimate triumph. He gave voice to thought on the subject of one of the most important icons in sport, and was as wrong as LeBron James was on the planet's few non-millionaires.

He suggested bracelets instead of rings for his players/employees.

"Rings are done," Cuban said to NBA TV. "It's time to take it to the next level."

The next level? Gold cars? Platinum flying cars? Robotic domestic help? No. Bracelets.

An interesting notion, but it begs a question. When did the nature of the players' reward go up for grabs?

Before we get too worked up here, it seems that Dirk Nowitzki, who can use Cuban as an ottoman these days and get away with it, basically declined for his teammates.

"We got to talk to him about that," Nowitzki said with what was described as a big smile. "I don't think the last word has been spoken yet. You know he always wants to do something different, wants to do something bigger, but I mean, the ring is just so classic."

Which it is. Athletes talk incessantly about "the ring," in the same way that regular folks talk about "the kids." The ring is what defines true greatness. It is the money for those who have too much money.

Cuban's significant error in his time of ultimate triumph? Suggesting championship bracelets, not rings. (Getty Images)  
Cuban's significant error in his time of ultimate triumph? Suggesting championship bracelets, not rings. (Getty Images)  
How Cuban missed that ... well, he always does think out loud. Give him that.

Still ...

"It's got to be rings. I don't know what he's thinking," head coach Rick Carlisle said. "You win an NBA championship, you gotta have a ring. If he wants to give guys something else [in addition to] a ring, that's great."

Oh, so it's a jewelry-off. Anklets, navel studs, tongue doorknobs -- it's all in play now.

Except that it isn't, not really. It would be the equivalent of paying Nowitzki's twice-monthly salary in silver dollars glued to a statue. Yeah, it's different. It's also something that would make all the other kids in the schoolyard laugh.

We're actually half-hoping he really means to do it, of course, because nothing livens up an end-of-year team party quite like the phrase, "What the hell is this?"

But we suspect this is just Cuban being Cuban. Having held his tongue for so long (and no, this does not segue into a trophy-at-the-urinal joke), he probably realizes that cursing on the air isn't the same jaw-dropper it used to be.

But this ... this definitely extended the debate over the Finals at a time when LeBron James' second do-over of his postgame presser was beginning to fade, and it delayed the "Holy crap, here comes the lockout" story by a day. And hey, we're willing to play along. That's how much the other two stories blow.

It is also a story, though, that extends the "Cuban's Kind Of Daft Isn't He?" brand a bit farther than we thought he was willing to go. It raises an issue nobody ever thought could be an issue. It messed with the one truly inviolate thing left in the game -- the currency everyone of any character lusts for, even after the currency that everyone's agent lusts for.

The Ring. Although a nice nine-carat emerald-encrusted cheek bolt wouldn't be considered too gauche, would it?

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com

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