To an avid basketball fan, the name “Stephon Marbury” usually generates responses along the lines of “he’s a selfish point guard who thinks it’s always about him” or “I wouldn’t want that overpaid bum on my team! All the team’s he got traded out of became contenders!”It’s easy to sympathize with these unflattering and discourteous statements because to some extent, they possess grains of truth behind them. Marbury has never been known as a team-oriented point guard. He’s talented, no question about it. But while his skills on the hardwood cannot be doubted, it’s his leadership skill that always crumbles under the spotlight of scrutiny.
Under the glaring lights of arguably the biggest basketball market in the world, Marbury has choked on the pressure of being the so-called “savior” of the New York Knicks.
His hasn’t endeared himself to the Garden faithful with his style of play. While his stats may deceive a common fan (he’s only the second player in NBA history to average 20 points and eight assists in a career. The other one: Oscar Robertson) the basketball purists will shun at this statistic and invariably compare him to the two point guards (Jason Kidd and Steve Nash) who replaced him after his stints with the New Jersey Nets and the Phoenix Suns.
(Note: Marbury had little to no success with both teams and after he left, both the Nets and the Suns flourished under the leadership skills of both Jason Kidd and Steve Nash. The Nets made the Finals twice with Kidd at the helm and the Suns have been one of the leagues premier teams since Nash became their point guard)
In addition to his self-glorifying style of play, Marbury has also been known to engage in verbal, sometimes physical, spats with teammates and coaches. The most notable example of this boorish behavior was his “soap-opera-esque” saga with former Knicks coach Larry Brown.
After a promising start, his relationship with Brown went sour and deteriorated to the point that the coach jumped ship after only one year as the head man of the Knicks. After the whole saga played out, Marbury’s popularity plummeted faster than a Wall Street crash. He was called selfish, spoiled, and egotistic. Two columnists from the New York Daily News, Frank Isola and Michael O’Keefe, even went as far as calling him the “most reviled athlete in New York.”
It`s safe to say that after everything that has been said and written about him as a basketball player, Stephon Marbury probably heads the list of athletes you’d want your children to NOT emulate.
But then, judging his character solely on his basketball skills – as so many people seem to do nowadays – does not do justice to his entire personality.
If you go beyond his proclamation of being the “best point guard in the NBA”, you’ll realize that there’s so much more to Stephon Marbury than people give him credit for.
Much, much more.
What never gets brought up in conversations about the guy is the fact that while he continues to get maligned by the critics for his “selfishness” on the court, nobody seems to realize the fact that off the court, this guy, with the exception of Dikembe Mutombo, is one of the most charitable players the NBA has ever had.
A lot of people don’t know that Marbury donated 1 million dollars of his own money to aid the victims of Katrina – by far one of the biggest donations of any athlete for those affected by the deadly hurricane. In addition to that, he has also donated over 3 million dollars to help the NYPD, FDNY, EMT’s and New York City teachers.
Marbury also hasn’t forgotten to give back to his hometown of Coney Island. He hosts a summer basketball camp there at Surfside Gardens called the “Stephon Marbury Basketball Classic.” For this year, he is requiring each participant of his camp to read three books and write an essay. Apart from his basketball camp, Marbury has also built countless state-of-the-art basketball courts throughout Coney Island and regularly hires barbers to give free haircuts to neighborhood children.
Let’s also not forget about the “Starburys”. Marbury understands that a lot of inner-city kids can’t afford the Nike’s and Adidas’ of the world. So, he teamed up with Steve and Barry’s to create and promote sneakers that sell for only $14.98. He’s not being paid to endorse the sneakers and whatever profit he makes out of them goes directly to charity. Marbury has also promised to give out a pair of these same sneakers to every high school varsity basketball player in New York City.
If only more people knew this side of the guy, then maybe they will come to grips with the reality that “selfish” is the last word you’d ever use to describe Stephon Marbury.
So how ironic is it that one of the most maligned basketball players in the NBA is also one of its best humanitarians?
Stephon Marbury may not make the best decisions on the basketball court, but his heart for the world is, without question, always in the right place.