What’s Jewish About … Mark Cuban
What's Jewish About ...Opinion

What’s Jewish About … Mark Cuban

Robyn Spizman Gerson is making connections with high profile names to find "what is Jewish about" them to share in the monthly column.

Robyn Spizman Gerson is a New York Times best-selling author of many books, including “When Words Matter Most.” She is also a communications professional and well-known media personality, having appeared often locally on “Atlanta and Company” and nationally on NBC’s “Today” show. For more information go to www.robynspizman.com.

Mark Cuban
Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban needs little introduction. He’s a highly visible billionaire investor and one of the stars of the TV show “Shark Tank.” A seasoned entrepreneur and professional sports team owner, Cuban has ventured into a wide variety of industries, making his name — and fortune — through the sale of startups MicroSolutions and Broadcast.com in the 1990s, and later as an owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks franchise. We caught up with the famous “Shark” to find out some of the lesser-known facts about Mark Cuban.

Mark, tell us about your family and growing up Jewish in Pittsburgh, Penn.
Just a normal kid growing up. Nothing unique or special about it at all. Up until the 7th grade I was one of only two Jewish kids at school and in the neighborhood. Then I moved a few blocks to a new school and that changed who my schoolmates were. That really opened the door to my experience with Jewish friends.

Can you share any stories about your paternal or maternal grandparents, where they came from and how you got the last name Cuban?
All of my grandparents came over around the age of twenty. My mom’s mom was from Lithuania. Her dad was from Bessarabia. On my dad’s side, my grandparents were from the south of Ukraine. They had the typical experience: no English; no money; stay with family; find any job you could. Experience the depression and more. That certainly shaped my parents’ upbringing and, in turn, shaped mine. And as far their name — they didn’t really change their name. People just started writing it as Cubin or Cuban. As it turns out, on my dad’s birth certificate, his name is spelled Cubin; on mine it’s Cuban. No one knows why!

Mark, you were an entrepreneur at a very young age. How’d you get started?
I was buying and selling baseball cards in the local park when I was 9 or 10. I was selling trash bags door to door. I just have always had an entrepreneurial bent for as long as I can remember.

Did you have a bar mitzvah and, if so, what was your favorite memory?
I did not. My dad kind of rebelled against organized religion, but never against his Jewish faith. But he sat me down one day and told me that it was my decision. He had not been bar mitzvahed, and I choose to play football on Saturdays instead of going to Saturday school. So, while that was not a feature of my life, growing up Jewish has certainly been. It’s something I’m very proud of. It was right around that same time that I remember a local kid starting a fight with me in the park. He kept on calling me a kike. I had no idea what that was or meant, but after the fight — which I won 🙂 — I had to ask my dad what a kike was. He spent the time to tell me. It made me very proud to be Jewish.

As a popular “Shark” on the hit show “Shark Tank,” which business have you partnered with lately that you are excited about?
I love them all. You will have to watch on Friday nights to see which I like the very best. There are some amazing companies this season.

You’re a sports enthusiast of the greatest kind. What do you think about our sports teams in Atlanta?
I hope they lose every time they play a Dallas or Pittsburgh team! But it was fun to watch the Braves this year.

What’s your best piece of advice to anyone who wants to succeed in business?
Be curious, be agile, be the best salesperson in the company.

What is the most successful business you’ve ever invested in?
Broadcast.com. Investing in myself has always paid off the best!

What is your all-time favorite book, Jewish food and Chanukah gift you’ve received?
“The Fountainhead,” which I got in high school, kugel, and all of them!

We heard you recently purchased the entire town (77 acres) of Mustang, Texas. What do you plan to do with it?
No plans yet!

What’s one thing you hope your children will remember about you?
How much I love them and, hopefully, how much they learned from me.

Tell us something about you that not many people know.
I’m terrified of heights! No chance you will get me going to space or even on a rollercoaster!

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