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Mark Cuban, The Champ, Sounds Off

NBA champion Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban likes early-stage startups. He doesn’t like the Miami Heat, who his Mavs will square off against when the league kicks its season on Dec. 25. And, from the sound of it, he still doesn’t much care for’s prospects, either.

I caught up with Cuban after his keynote discussion at Business Insider’s New York City Ignition event. I wanted to confirm what CEO Aaron Levie told Venture Alpha attendees in San Francisco earlier this year, namely that Levie and Cuban hold starkly different opinions on how the business should be run, and that bought its earliest investor out at no profit to him.

He wasn’t tempted to recant, that’s for certain. When asked whether he felt the “freemium” model—on which he and Levie disagreed—would be a viable business model in any industry, he said it can work, but has to be managed on a case-by-case basis. Cuban also confirmed what Levie said: he was bought out of early and at no profit. He added: “They’re not really making money yet anyway.”

Well, that’s not exactly accurate. Sources confirmed to peHUB that’s revenue is in the $25 million-a-year range for 2011, not too far off the pace of its biggest competitor, Dropbox, which will take in $36 million for this year.

Cuban said his return on investment would have been minimal anyway, because he did not buy a sizeable stake in in the first place.

While on stage, Cuban touched on tons of topics, including early-stage startups (he’s bullish because “you can start a company for next to nothing”). But he’s certainly not a believer that online video will displace television. And he’ll kick the tires on the Los Angeles Dodgers, but doesn’t expect to walk off with the former McCourt property. “It’s an asset someone will over-pay for,” he said.

As the loudest court side mouth in the NBA, one would expect Cuban to be talking big about his championship-winning team and what signings they might make. No dice. Cuban told attendees that NBA team owners are still prohibited from speaking publicly about the business until a contract is completely formalized with players.

Not that a little ban on chit-chat could completely preclude him from making his feelings known.

“It won’t break my heart to see LeBron James and Dwayne Wade” on his home court as his Mavs belatedly hoist their championship banner Christmas Day, he said, drawing a laugh and applause from the crowd.