“He’s lonely,” he told me. “This is sad to watch. I feel for him. Money doesn’t buy happiness.”
This is someone who has worked with Marbury in the past, who likes him and thinks there’s a lot of good amid the confusion and turmoil. Marbury is no longer an All-Star basketball player, but a journeyman trying to turn his fading fame into counterculture basketball celebrity. As his talent has rapidly decayed, his career bottomed out, Starbury’s appeal has been relegated to that of a peep show on the Internet. He’s turned himself into the radio station that you hear in the back of a taxi at 2 a.m.
There were teams watching him in front offices as he conducted his marathon video chat on Friday, and Starbury confirmed himself as a complete loon. He was live on his balcony, Jesus had shown himself in Marbury’s shower and this wayward point guard was still the biggest waste of talent that basketball’s seen in a long, long time.
“He’s gone off the deep end,” one Western Conference executive texted on Friday.
Before the summer started, Marbury still believed he was a $10 million-a-year basketball player. Well, it’s almost August, and he’ll be fortunate to get the veteran’s minimum. His best chance to make $5-6 million in U.S. dollars will be overseas. Olympiakos of Greece has lost its bid for Knicks guard Nate Robinson(notes), and a source close to ownership told Yahoo! Sports the team is debating whether to extend a two-year, $10 million offer to Allen Iverson(notes). So far, Marbury isn’t a consideration for Olympiakos.
Beyond the curious simply checking into Marbury’s chat, the way they would slow down for a car wreck, he’s tapped into an audience. He’s the anti-star now, the outsider, the rejected and maligned cartoon character. Apparently, this has an audience. He still thinks he can sell his Starbury sneakers to his flock. As it turns out, $15 a pair is still one of his greatest contributions to American society. If nowhere else, that’s where he bested Michael Jordan.
“I’m building them out, all over the world – little Starbury stores,” Marbury declared. “Get ready!”
Everything is an epiphany for Starbury; everything a grand realization. Everything is a turning point in a life that never changes, that just gets spookier with the passing of time. Once, he cared deeply about basketball. He was going to be a point guard for the ages, but a warped sense of self and reality left him forever making promises he could never keep in life.
Ten years ago, Marbury and I were sitting at a Nets shoot-around in the Meadowlands. He had just forced his way out of Minnesota and had come to New Jersey. The Nets had lost 13 of 15 games to start the season, and Starbury was trying to distance himself from the losing, and elevate his path to redemption using the ultimate basketball parable, Michael Jordan.
“You have to go through things like this, that’s why Jordan hated to lose so much.” he said. “When he won the championship, he wasn’t like Tim Duncan(notes), filming the celebration. Jordan was hugging the ball, crying. He wouldn’t let anyone go near the ball or touch it. Michael Jordan had to go through adversity.
“Jordan went through the same thing I am, with people saying that he was selfish, that he didn’t want to pass the ball, he’s not a leader…”
Starbury was 22 years old and rolling that morning. He had big ideas for his career, big plans for how they would remember him, how he would become a champion. He had just gone to a World Series game and sat in a suite with one of the Nets’ minority owners, George Steinbrenner. “I felt like I was sitting right next to myself,” he said. “He was bending over, and his eyes were like a killer’s, looking out on the field, not wanting to see anything but good plays. I was in awe.”
Finally he said, “I’m him. He’s me.”
It was 2:55 a.m. ET on Saturday morning, and I clicked back to see if Marbury was still there. He was eating a salad and had stopped talking. Drake was throbbing in the background. His head was bobbing with the music, but no more words. He just stared into the cameras, eyes glazed, unwilling to let this night end. There were still questions popping into his live chat, still people staying awake with him.
“No, I’m not tired,” Marbury said. “You want me to be tired?”
Stephon Marbury is tired, and maybe lonely, and staring oddly into your computer, begging for somewhere to belong.