The Long, Strange Journey Of Stephon Marbury

11.18.11 7 years ago 4 Comments

A few pages in a book explained everything. It was one of those instances where you read, then drop the book to your lap, pick your eyes up, stare off into space completely zoned out, and have an epiphany. It all makes sense now. Starbury is a person and an entity. It’s a brand and it’s a mindset, all of that tied into one. Starbury withstood. The word didn’t officially come to represent one of our favorite best worst players until a few years ago when he was at the onset of a journey that would take him halfway across the globe. It started a long time ago back in Coney Island. It’s not a fad. It’s seemingly grown into his way of life.

Darcy Frey’s “The Last Shot” captures Stephon Marbury at his most revealing and his most predictable. He isn’t the focus of the story, and for someone who would go on to be so polarizing, it’s amazing to read as he takes a back seat to others less talented, some of whom are using fake names. But right from the start on our first introduction to Starbury, we realize he isn’t some airheaded teenager with a too small scope of the world. His outlook goes beyond what pretty much all of us could see at the same age. He was the same guy who came into the national focus just a few years later, and already knew how to work the system. When I read the scene about the author driving along with Marbury in the car, then stopping for food at McDonald’s, and Marbury ordering enough to feed every fat center he ever played with… without expecting to pay for it, I had the epiphany described above. “Oh man, that’s when he became like that.” Looking back on it now, it doesn’t seem like much. He was probably 15 at the time. An adult took him to a fast food restaurant. Who wouldn’t assume he would get it for free, even if he did order like six meals? At the time though, I was convinced I had founding the starting block for Starbury.

Between appearing like, as one Dime commentator pointed out, he has started eating Vaseline for real in a team photo, and his public assault on Michael Jordan, Marbury has found himself in a pretty familiar place. Every fall, at the start of basketball season, we hear about what he’s doing (playing ball in China), we hear he’s promoting his brand and we get some crazy story either out of his words or from someone else’s. But as the year moves along, the basketball-loving public forgets about him, and inevitably will ask around February, “Is Marbury still playing in China?”

I’ll eventually ask the same question, even as Starbury has been on my mind a lot lately. Marbury tweeted this recently about MJ:

Micheal Fake Jordan is a sell out. #Period. He forgot which hole he came out of. I said it “Stephon X Marbury”… MJ went from MJ the black cat to a guy who forgot he was a player. Sell your team if you can’t make a profit.. Your just a regular dude now! … When he rapped the Bulls for 36 million for one year no ones said nothing about that…

He’s just a man. I know he’s some people’s GOd but real is real. Dude forgot he played and demanded millions… he wasn’t my idol I just loved his game. He never did nothing that I knew about to change the life off of the court other then hit cats over the head for a 100 150 dollar sneakers and still doing it. Jim Brown said it best. Micky mouse type cat. Wave and break you pocket for as long as he can.

he didn’t create nothing. The game was played way before him…

Afterwards, he said his move to China has reinvigorated his life, given it meaning and helped him to straighten his path. He’s learned enough Mandarin to speak freely and says he loves living across the Pacific.

Whenever we hear him talk like this, it harps back to the negative. All of the negative, because in order to turn it around, it all had to get screwed up in the first place. So we remember everything that tore him – and his image – apart. The stuff that made us forget the 20/8 averages and the combination with Kevin Garnett, or the few brights spot in New York and the playoff shot in Phoenix.

[Related: Stephon Marbury – NBA Stars Aren’t Prepared To Play In China]

My all-time favorite Marbury moment was the 2001 NBA All-Star Game when two “little guys” helped transform a showcase of moderate enthusiasm and explosive, but unfullfilling highlights into a soap opera that was gushing emotion and played much more like a real game. Marbury’s role in that famous Eastern Conference comeback, and his genuinely elated reactions afterwards, made him special to me. At that time, even though he had already broken up with KG and ruined a lot of dreams for a lot of people, he was still pretty loveable to someone like myself. It humanized him. After the Jason Kidd trade, and then the debacle in New York City, he lost all of that.

Starbury burned basically every bridge he ever passed. Now, he’s trying to rebuild them (while simultaneously lighting neighboring ones with fire).

Marbury has had perhaps the strangest career I’ve seen. He went from being the backpacker’s dream to a malcontent to the stone that broke down a potential dynasty to someone who cared too much to someone who cared too little to just another arrow in a franchise’s endless supply of negative ammunition to finally, a somebody and nobody at the same time. And in reality, when the fame does enough of it’s double-edged work that you start to hate it, that’s probably the best thing you can be.

Being able to survive the way he has – no longer a celebrity basketball player – is pretty cool. Being able to morph what I thought Starbury was, or meant, into something different is even cooler.

When you think of Marbury, do you see the negative stuff or the positive stuff?

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