According to Mark Cuban, all is fair in basketball and data. And that's why he's very much in favor of "player-hacking" in the sport.
The term refers to the intentional fouling of poor free-throw shooters in the NBA. It has become an increasingly popular strategy recently, thanks in part to the growing use of data and analytics in just about every aspect of business imaginable, but not everyone is as big a fan of the technique as the intensely competitive Cuban.
Last week, NBA commissioner Adam Silver told USA Today he had tentative plans to change the rules of the game to discourage player-hacking. As of Friday, there had been 266 intentional fouls during the current season, surpassing last year's full year total of 164, ESPN reports.
"[F]ans are looking at me shrugging their shoulders with that look saying, 'Aren't you going to do something about this?'" Silver told USA Today.
Cuban, however, says the strategy has numerous benefits, including making basketball more entertaining--and, theoretically, the business more profitable. More free throws mean more fans standing up trying to distract players at the free throw line, Cuban told ESPN. He added that the statistically driven strategy also adds "intrigue" to the game by forcing fans and coaches to rethink who should be out on the court, based on free throw completion data.
"Will they leave him in or leave him out?" Cuban said. "How do both teams feel about it? How will they foul?"
It's worth noting that Cuban has been known to share somewhat controversial viewpoints when it comes to issues related to Silver, the NBA, and rules. For example, after Silver voted to ban former Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the NBA due to racist remarks Sterling made, Cuban called the decision a "slippery slope," citing the difference between what people "say and think" and what they do.
"There's no law against stupid," Cuban said at Inc.'s 2014 GrowCo conference.
Still, when it comes to implementing rules to discourage player-hacking, Cuban and NBA superstar LeBron James are in agreement.
"At the end of the day, it's a strategy of the game and whatever it takes to win," James told ESPN. "If that's a part of the game and you have a guy that is a bad free throw shooter and you put him on the line, that's a part of strategy."