Through the refusals to play, to the theatrical storming out of meetings with management, to the delirious diatribes to the New York Post, there’s been one constant truth that’s risen out of the confusion: Within Stephon Marbury, the doubt has deepened. He isn’t so sure he wants the pressure, the responsibility, the demands of championship basketball.
Marbury goes to the Boston Celtics now, but the buyout took forever for a good reason: Starbury is a cartoon character who lives on the tabloid backpages, who exists as the King of Fools in basketball.
He’s a loser.
Deep down, he knows it.
He knows better than anyone.
“Sometimes it’s easier for a person to constantly threaten to do something, than to actually do it,” one respected NBA general manager said Tuesday. “Marbury has been threatening for a while now.”
When Marbury walks into that Celtics locker room, the con is over. He has been threatening a long time to show what he can do for a contender. Now he gets his chance. He hasn’t played a regular-season NBA game in over a year, a playoff game in five years, and hasn’t won a postseason game in six. Losing has always been someone else’s fault – his GM, his coach, his teammates. What’s more, losing is a habit for him. It’s never cost him a big contract, nor bothered him enough to stop partying or show shame.
Marbury still rejects the idea that it’s ever been his job to make his teammates better. “How am I going to make someone else better?” he asked, and always, that question is an answer within itself.
The policing of the locker room that starts with Kevin Garnett makes the Celtics believe Marbury is a minimum-salaried modest risk. They need another guard. Yet, Marbury will make himself a spectacle with the Celtics. He’ll say stupid things and act the clown, and it won’t be long until Boston is measuring risk and reward with him. When the pressure gets too much for him, the burden of performance overwhelming, Marbury will do something to self-destruct.
He’ll create a drama, a distraction, because he always does. That’s how he functions. That’s how he reacts to pressure. He’ll swear he understands his job as Rajon Rondo’s backup, but just watch how long that lasts. This job of spot duty won’t be easy for him, because accepting that – sacrificing for the greater good – has never been a part of his DNA. He’ll have to do more with less time. He’ll have to make the most of his opportunities, be prepared, be focused and that just isn’t Marbury. He’s never had the discipline to do it.
And with all of Marbury’s insecurities, with his need to have a circus surrounding him, there come massive jealousies. Never mind those that consumed him as an NBA player. Consider that employees of the Steve & Barry’s stores that once sold his Starbury sneaker line tell hilarious stories of how obsessive Marbury became over the now-bankrupt chain’s catering to actress Sarah Jessica Parker and her clothing line. They would see his car pulling up to the corporate headquarters and employees would tense up awaiting Marbury bursting through the doors, bemoaning the fact that SJP and her clothing line was a bigger deal, a bigger seller, than a product ultimately doomed by his poisoned brand name.
Now, Marbury can climb aboard the Celtics, the champs, and somehow he’ll sell this as his destiny. He was meant to find his way to Boston, to be a champion and that will be the biggest lie of the season. They’re desperate for a guard. There’s no one else out there. Boston is selling a little of its soul, a little of its championship heritage, to take on Marbury as a mercenary.
“The Celtics are focused on defending our championship and are working day and night to finalize our playoff roster,” Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck said in a statement Tuesday night. “We don’t have anything to announce at this point except that we intend to do everything we can to raise Banner 18.”
What he means is this: The Celtics won’t just do everything, they’ll do anything. They’re hoping against hope that Marbury can make a difference, but they’re running the risk of downloading basketball’s ultimate Trojan virus. Finally, Marbury is free of New York, and just understand: He was never, ever in a rush for this reality.
He liked it best when he was shooting spitballs from the back of the classroom at the Knicks, hanging out on the beach in Los Angeles, calling in crazy quotes to the Post. He’s most comfortable as Starbury, the cartoon character. He did his best in a world of hypotheticals and empty threats, a world without pressure and performance.
Now, Starbury takes a deep breath and starts on his way to the Boston Celtics. Deep down, he’s terrified. Somehow, Starbury has to summon Stephon. That’s a big problem for him now, because Stephon Marbury knows better than anyone that Stephon Marbury is a loser.