Two points of clarification on the above headline, right off the top. One: I don’t believe that Mavrello Ballovic is being considered an actual mascot. The Mavericks, who debuted the cartoon figure this morning, aren’t calling him that. Mavrello is instead “a new character promising entertainment and engagement for Mavs fans past and present,” according to a press release. The press materials included with the team’s announcement only include digital renderings. Call me a traditionalist, but if it can’t do slam dunks off a trampoline or walk around on court shooting t-shirts out of a tube, it’s not a mascot. “Character” just doesn’t have the same resonance in a sports context, though.
Two: While Mavrello Ballovic sure is something, I don’t know whether he’s as much of something as the Mavs Man, who is both a certifiable and well-established mascot and—as an actual man with insane ups and the skin of a basketball, rather than an anthropomorphic cartoon basketball—weirder than almost any other mascot in existence. (Except, of course, the New Orleans Pelicans’ legendary King Cake Baby.) Ballovic is, however, much more of something than the Mavericks’ other mascot, a horse named (and I feel the strong urge to fall asleep typing this) Champ.
With that noted, here’s Ballovic running into Mavs owner Mark Cuban. I can’t quite place the accent, but would describe it as “cartoon Eastern European.” The Mavs, as you know, have several players who hail from Europe. This is called synergy, and business consultants are paid well for it.
— MC_X (@MCX_FUN) April 29, 2021
Some further background comes via the Mavs press release:
A former Dallas Mavericks owner – curmudgeonly, behind-the-times and full of wacky ideas – has emerged after a 30-year hiatus, vowing to resume control of the NBA franchise. Accidentally locked within a bunker beneath Reunion Arena since 1988, Mavrello Ballovic was forced to dig his way out using only a concession-stand spork.
In other words, a character diametrically opposed to cutting-edge, crypto-loving Cuban, who’s got his finger on the pulse of young people. Ballovic comes courtesy of Mark Cuban Experiments, whose website has a pretty fun landing page but not much else. There are additional layers here. If Ballovic has been buried under Reunion Arena since 1988, then he is presumably unaware of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Are the Mavs setting up an ideological battle between the team’s former owner—a cartoon basketball from Eastern Europe who quite possibly supports a highly centralized socialist state—and its current owner, the billionaire capitalist with a passion for hoops and the free market?
More from the press release:
“We know fans, especially Gen Z, have more choices than ever in terms of how they spend their time and what constitutes entertainment for them – from gaming and social platforms, to movies, streaming and more. We must reinvent ourselves to appeal to them in new ways that lean into this context,” said Cuban.
“We must expand our focus to engage people of all ages and attract new eyeballs to the game,” he added. “We want to create new IP and original content that’s tied to the team. In doing so, this allows the Mavs to spin out new avenues that start to take us in a lot of new directions.”
I’m good with this. I’m on record as a supporter of every organization having more characters, mascots, whatever you want to call them. The Mavs should have dozens of characters. Hundreds of mascots, dunking balls at halftime and throwing out t-shirts and performing complicated choreography. Let’s build a whole Mavs Extended Universe. Perhaps Mavrello Ballovic could play point.