directly to Cuban in both positions, serves as mediator between the oft-fined team owner and the league, which once levied a hefty $500,000 penalty for criticizing officiating at a Mavericks game. “Cuban is a fascinating owner, but because Mark is so mercurial and energetic, [when he first arrived], the relationship between the team and the league couldn’t have been any worse,” says former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, a 20-year Mavericks season ticket holder. “But Terdema was the glue or vehicle that kept that relationship from totally dissolving, which wouldn’t have been good for the Mavericks. He also provided a degree of reality and professionalism, in terms of the relationships with the owners and the league, that Cuban didn’t particularly care to vest in.”
Ussery, who’s in his seventh year as Mavericks CEO, has come a long way since growing up near the border of Compton and Watts in South Central Los Angeles. A 1981 graduate of Princeton University, he received his master’s from Harvard and a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley. He practiced entertainment law in Los Angeles before joining the Continental Basketball Association, a minor league, as its deputy commissioner and general counsel in 1990. In April 1991, Ussery was named CBA Commissioner where he would spearhead the league’s anti-drug and player education programs. “We had no resources — seven staff members,” recalls Ussery. “We were just a bunch of young guys and girls and we were having fun.”
In his time with the CBA, Ussery would help the league turn profitable and identify good team own
ership candidates. He also developed relationships at Nike, which would be the next step in his career path. In 1993, he joined the Nike Sports Management team where he served as president. His responsibilities there included overseeing the advertising, marketing and promotion of Nike’s most important athletes, such as Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, Picabo Street, Alonzo Mourning, and Ken Griffey Jr. The sports apparel giant ended up folding the Nike Sports Management Team after the NCAA ruled that the division functioned much the same as sports agents.
Enter real estate tycoon H. Ross Perot, who had recently purchased the struggling Mavericks. In 1996, Perot was seeking an executive who could run the team and reach out to the city’s voters in order to get a bond election passed to help fund the construction of an arena. Perot turned to commissioner David Stern for possible candidates. Ussery’s name was on Stern’s list. However, the Mavericks had been struggling and fans had grown apathetic. It was just the challenge that Ussery was looking for. “Attendance was poor and ratings were poor. People stopped talking about us,” Ussery recalls. “It wasn’t that they hated us, we were just irrelevant. And when you lose your relevancy, that’s when you’re in trouble.”
In the arena deal, the city of Dallas would float a bond to cover $150 million of the costs associated with the construction of the arena. Mavericks and NHL Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks would front