Last and First Men
Fat shot me a txt a while ago that Stephon Marbury was talking w/ Kareem on Steph's FSN show. I hit pause on Grandia & caught the last 20 minutes or so.
I know its been documented elsewhere that Steph is no Mike Wallace, but Steph positing questions to Kareem made me squeamish. This is not a knock against Steph - I find his show endearing & strangely comforting1 - but Steph is about my age, so his personal experience of Kareem's career is probably similar to mine. This is limited to the following:
1. A very, very, very vague memory of Kareem playing in the '88 Finals.The peculiar element of this interview was the way Steph would ask, shall we say, stilted questions to Kareem, & then Kareem would just field the question like a guy who'd been dealing w/ the press since the Mariner 4 probe. Especially interesting was Kareem speaking of the importantance of planning ahead for the inevitable end of yr playing career. Kareem then mentioned something about Steph doing just this, what w/ his shoe company & "this show." That's what really caught my attention. Marybury is executive producer of his own show, which I guess isn't a surprise, but, as Fat pointed out, its suprising for an active player, especially one of Marbury's, uh, [contractural] stature, to be laying post-playing career paving stones.
2. That commercial w/ the towel.
3. Game of Death
Combine this w/ the reaction I get when I tell people about the $15 Starburys (overwhelmingly positive for a shoe sponsored by a player that most people don't recognize by name) & I'm left w/ an extremely ambigious & confused attitude about Marbury. I mean, the guy has a reputation (admittedly deserved) as a loser, but he is, after all, 27th all-time in career assists. For comparison, draft-mate Allen Iverson is 72nd, & MJ is 32nd.
I know Maravich is a player that gets trotted out wayyy too much for the cross-purposes of historical comparison, but I can't help but think about a certain Halberstam quote:
Now, in his tenth year of the professional game, one of the two or three highest-paid players in the league, he had a reputation in some quarters of being a loser. Even those sympathetic to him did not really know if he could play team basketball. His career was almost over and no one really knew how good he was.2I guess this is where I'll wear the Marbury apologist hat for a few sentences.3
On 2nd thought, I won't want to go down that road.
But, in short, for the sake of making a point about the inescapable black hole that is historical circumstance, yeah, sure, the Wolves were 1st round exits w/Marbury 2 years in a row, but that kept happening for YEARS after.4 And the Nets? Did Kidd lift them to eastern conf. ascendency or did the East just finally get that effing bad after Steph left? PHX? Coach Frank Johnson? NY? Is it Marbury's fault he was brought to distract from the fact the Knicks were rebuilding-on-the-fly?
I don't know if I actually believe any of these defenses of Marbury. I guess its hard to simply say an NBA player is a victim of circumstance when basketball is highly praised as a sort of ziggaraut of individual & collection-of-individuals accomplishment. This is, after all, the game where Great Men of Stapledonian Proportions make history, & are not shaped by it.5
1 At long as his guest is someone from the NBA. I saw one where an NFL player was on & I had no idea what they were talking about.
2 Covenant of Hype, Covenant of Game January 3, 2007.
3 The Marbury critic need only point at the Wolves, Nets, & Suns all getting markedly better after his departure, usally instantly.
4 Although, in the wake of KG's departure from Minnesota, it appears there were other wheels within wheels at work in that sitch. 20/20.
5 This piece was drafted back in May. I wasn't happy w/ it so it rotted forgotten in my drafts collection. Looking at it now w/ what has transpired at MSG since, Marbury has transcended standard narratives into pure enigma. How does one describe the career of Coney Island's finest? And once you begin assigning motifs, where do you start? Or stop, for that matter? Are his on-court performanaces (or lack thereof) worth more than a footnote at this point? He's like a Rodman w/o the crazy. Or the hardware.