DALLAS — More than 1,300 middle school students filed into the American Airlines Center, not to watch highly paid athletes play basketball but to learn from a guy who pays them.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was a guest speaker at the Dallas stop of a financial education tour that will visit three more major cities and reach 10,000 kids.
If there's anything Cuban is as passionate about as basketball, it's money. That's why he wanted to be part of this event.
"When I was 16 and in high school, they didn't have a business class," Cuban told us after addressing the kids. "And so I literally dropped out of high school [and] went to college so I could take business classes."
Cuban doesn't recommend that path, but he does recommend his determination to set and reach goals.
"What I thought was very inspirational was that he said, 'Life isn't easy.' You have to take it a step at a time," said Nancy Gonzales, an 8th grader from Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School
Actor and Ivy League graduate Hill Harper was the main speaker. During the seminar, he asked questions. The right answer was worth $20, and Jonathan Medellin had another right answer when asked what he was going to do with that.
"I think I'm going to save it and put it in my savings account," said the 8th grader, who also goes to Holmes Middle School.
There is no shortage of stories about professional athletes who are irresponsible with their money. Maybe that's why the American Airlines Center was a good place for students to learn how to not be like some of their athletic heroes.
"If we can get these guys started saving now, it changes a community, the fabric of a community," said Harper.
"Whether it's basketball or whether it's business or entrepreneurship," added Cuban, "the one thing in life you can control is your effort."
"The one thing I kept hearing was about Mr. Cuban and the work ethic," said Jeannette Glass, a teacher at Holmes Middle School. "OK, miss, I'm going do better, I'm going to try harder."
It's a good lesson for 8th graders, and a great place to learn it.