The Dallas Mavericks’ co-founder and former owner Don Carter passed away Wednesday evening at the age of 84. Reportedly, paramedics were called to Carter’s Dallas condominium on Wednesday evening, but their efforts were to no avail.
Before becoming synonymous with the Mavericks and his ten-gallon hats that became a part of the early logo, Carter made his fortune helping his mother turn Home Interiors and Gifts Inc., a homegrown decorating accessories company into a bustling conglomerate. In 1979, he was introduced to former Buffalo Braves president Norm Sonju by Dallas Mayor Bob Folsom. The pair attempted to buy the Milwaukee Bucks and the Kansas City Kings, but they were rebuffed both times.
“The idea of basketball was not to buy a team here. These people were wanting to sell me a portion of a team they were going to move here. And it was going to be a gift for my wife.” The deal fell through, Carter said, “but I had gone and told my wife about this gift.”
Instead, the NBA aided their pursuit by announcing they’d be expanding the 22-team league to the Dallas and Minnesota markets. After a contentious negotiation with the league over a $12 million expansion fee, due to Minnesota dropping out, Sonju and Carter became co-founders of the Dallas expansion franchise in 1980, while the latter retained a majority stake.
By 1988, the Mavericks had assembled a contender led by Derek Harper, Rolando Blackman, Mark Aguirre, Sam Perkins, James Donaldson, Detlef Shrempf and Roy Tarpley. The Mavs reached the Western Conference Finals before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers, but would fall upon hard times on the court throughout the ’90s.
Carter sold the team to Ross Perot Jr. in 1996 for $125 million, but remained the “heart and soul” of the franchise according to Mark Cuban. When the Mavericks finally claimed their first championship in franchise history, it was former owner Don Carter, who accepted the Larry O’Brien Trophy from Commissioner David Stern.
“We are all heartbroken,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Thursday morning in an email to The News. The Mavericks later issued a full statement from Cuban.
“The entire Mavs family is heartbroken by the loss of Mr. Carter,” Cuban said. “Along with his wife Mrs. Carter, they have been our guiding lights for the organization since its founding in 1980.
“To say he will be missed does not do justice to just how important Mr. C has been to the Dallas Mavericks and the City of Dallas. Our condolences go out to Mrs. Carter and the entire Carter family.”
A cause of death was not disclosed by the medical examiner. The Mavericks have already announced they will honor Carter with a moment of silence before their next home game, Feb. 26 against Indiana.
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