Four Balls And Four Words: How Cynt Marshall Found Her Way As Dallas Mavs' CEO

Mackenzie Meaney

ream, focus, pray, and act. These Four words that are synonymous with daily affirmations for Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall. They are four words Marshall’s mother taught her to live by at a young age, and she hasn’t let them go.

“I had big dreams, I was trying to have big dreams,” Marshall said to LaChina Robinson at the espnW Summit in Brooklyn on May 4. “I was taught to focus, pray about everything and then take action because some things aren’t just going to happen unless you take action.”

Growing up, Marshall’s mother was one of the most influential people in her life, along with her teachers, and called them all her “village”. Marshall was the first black cheerleader at U.C. Berkeley and the first Black sister in her sorority.

Marshall came to the Mavs by way of AT&T, where she was an executive for over 30 years. Marshall had no prior basketball experience before being hired by owner Mark Cuban, but that didn’t sway him. When she was hired in 2018, it made Marshall the first Black female CEO of an NBA franchise in the history of the league.

“I didn’t know that I was first [female Black CEO in the NBA] until I was doing an interview and he said ‘How do you feel being the first?’ and I said I can’t be the first, there’s no way,” Marshall said. “I said OK, here’s what we're going to do. I make sure I’m not the last.”

Robinson summed up Marshall’s impact in Dallas since arriving.

“The leadership team is 50 percent women, 50 percent people of color, from 00,” she said. “Six of the 14 members of the mass executive leadership team are women, while seven are people of color. Of 28 employees at the VP level above 11 are women, 11 are people of color. Those reflect a 350 percent increase of women in executive leadership and 224 percent increase of women and people of color at the VP level and above.”

Creating a diverse workplace in Dallas has paid off. It has transformed their organization from one that was accused of sexual assault and domestic violence to an award-winning front office for the most inclusive leadership award in 2020.

“The tone is set at the top,” Marshall said. “You have to have people in decision-making roles to help diversify those tables to help diversify sponsors to help diversify the fanbase. Every single one of those areas needs to be diverse and reflect the demographics of the Dallas metroplex, and so I am happy to say they do. Our business is better. We have 60 to 64 percent more profit.”

Marshall left the group on Thursday with a simple message on top of the four words she lives by — think of life in terms of three rubber balls and one crystal ball. Marshall called them part of her toolkit and gifted Robinson with the four balls.

“Crystal balls are things that if you drop them, they shatter,” Marshall said. “It will never come back, Whereas rubber balls will come back. You can throw them away, someone will take it, and it’ll bounce back or you bounce it away because you shouldn’t have handled it in the first place. Someone may need it and take it from you. One will always come back later. And if one bounces back to you, you’re on your way."

Photo credits: Courtesy of Cynt Mashall's Instagram (Hero image), Mackenzie Meaney (author)