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92 Views· 05/04/24· Podcast

S61 Ep1 Stephon Marbury NYC Legend_ Basketball Icon _ 3x Champion


NYC Basketball Network
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Stephon Marbury is the only professional basketball player I first learned about from a book. “The Last Shot,” a deeply empathetic work of narrative nonfiction by Darcy Frey, which was published in 1994, portrays Marbury during his freshman year at Coney Island’s Lincoln High School, as he and his older teammates on the basketball team—Marbury was the point guard—navigated urban poverty, lacklustre schooling, and the joys, teasing cruelties, and insidious corruption of high-level “amateur” sports. Early in the book, at the end of a nighttime game in Coney Island, Marbury takes a few dribbles, throws up an arcing alley-oop, and a teammate—who happens to be Marbury’s elder cousin—dunks the pass home for a win. “Then he raises his arms jubilantly and dances a little jig,” Frey writes, of Marbury, “rendered momentarily insane by the sheer, giddy pleasure of playing this game to perfection.”That early perfection made Marbury renowned within New York’s five boroughs and, eventually, far beyond. He was drafted into the N.B.A. in 1996, by Milwaukee, which immediately traded him to Minnesota, where he briefly formed a talented duo with the rising superstar Kevin Garnett. But his departure from the team—during his third season, he asked for a trade—was a bigger story than his impressive stat lines had been, and, although Marbury became an All-Star, bad press followed him to his next team, the New Jersey Nets, then to the Phoenix Suns, and, most memorably, to his home-town New York Knicks, where he was coached by Larry Brown, with whom he had a comically bad relationship, one already soured by their losing effort together at the 2004 Summer Olympics. Brown was fired, and the Knicks’ general manager, Isiah Thomas, took over coaching duties; he clashed with Marbury, too. By the end of Marbury’s time in New York, he had been asked not to practice or play with the team.

He spent part of a year coming off the bench for the Boston Celtics, then made the surprising choice to play in the Chinese Basketball Association, where he built a new, highly successful life as an expatriate ex-N.B.A.-er. No overseas second act has done so much to change a player’s perception among basketball fans. Marbury eventually won three championship titles with the Beijing Ducks, and has become a kind of national culture hero in China. A statue of him stands in Beijing, outside the arena where he played; he was given the keys to the city; and, after his last game as a professional, the crowd stood and applauded. Some wept. Now, somewhat improbably, given his earlier troubles with management, he is a coach for the Beijing Royal Fighters.

Marbury has been analyzed and discussed as much as he has been watched—Spike Lee’s “He Got Game,” released in 1998, was widely assumed to be based in part on Marbury’s life—and he has displayed a concomitant passion for self-presentation. As a rookie, rather than sign an endorsement deal with Nike or Adidas, he opted for the small streetwear brand And1. Later, he entered a partnership with the clothing retailer Steve & Barry’s, where he designed and marketed the Starbury sneaker, which sold for just fifteen dollars. In 2009, Marbury recorded an angry, imprecatory live stream for twenty-four hours, railing against the Knicks, listening to gospel music, and occasionally weeping. (At one point, Marbury, complaining of a sore throat, ate several gobs of Vaseline.) In 2014, he starred in a musical called “I Am Stephon Marbury,” and, in 2017, he played himself in “My Other Home,” an autobiographical movie about his adventures in China.

Now comes a new documentary about his life, called “A Kid from Coney Island,” which gallops from Brooklyn to China and takes scrupulous, almost legal, care to point out the myriad ways in which Marbury has been, from his perspective, misunderstood and maligned. It is largely narrated by Marbury’s friends and family, though the ESPN anchor Stephen A. Smith also appears. The movie premièred at the Tribeca Film Festival last year and showed in theatres before the coronavirus effectively shut down the American box office. It’s now available to stream. Recently, I spoke to Marbury on the phone. He had just returned to his home in Beijing after a short promotional trip to New York. Shortly before we spoke, the New York Post had reported that Marbury was working with Eric Adams, Brooklyn’s borough president, to coördinate a large shipment of medical masks to his home town. Our conversation has been edited and condensed.

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4 Comments

Dileep Singh

2 months ago
Good
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Vikram Singh

2 months ago
Good
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argFX

2 months ago
cool
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Lamborghini

2 months ago
Great podcast
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