How weird is Stephon Marbury?

By ADAM REILLY  |  March 10, 2009

All alone
But let's deal with Marbury's conventional transgressions first — and let's start with the selfishness, because the acuteness of Marbury's narcissism puts even his most solipsistic pro peers to shame.

There is, admittedly, something absurd about the way the public bristles when pro athletes show an excessive sense of entitlement: we pay obscene amounts of money to watch these players perform, know full well that they're making even more obscene amounts of money to ply their craft, and then are shocked — shocked! — when they act like they think they're better than the rest of us, or not beholden to the same ethical norms.

All that said, it's hard not to marvel at the Promethean self-absorption of the newest Celtic. Most recently, Marbury — who was making about $21 million with the New York Knicks this past season — evidently refused to take the court two times in November 2008, after the team had been decimated by injuries, and was subsequently banished. Marbury's motivation was obvious — he was piqued by an opening-night benching by coach Mike D'Antoni — but his boycott was seen as an unacceptable breach of protocol by fans and players alike. As then-teammate Quentin Richardson put it: "He hasn't played with us all year. . . . I don't pay attention to [Stephon] because I don't look at him as a teammate, anyway."

Even if this episode had been an anomaly, it still would raise questions about the wisdom of the C's adding Marbury. But the fact is, he's been pulling this kind of crap for years. In 1999 — after gushing about how happy he was to play with his friend Kevin Garnett — Marbury apparently grew jealous of Garnett's precedent-setting, lockout-inducing $126 million contract and forced the team to trade him to the woeful New Jersey Nets. That same year, Marbury conveyed his dissatisfaction with his new Nets teammates by writing the phrase "All Alone" on his ankle tape — then claimed, implausibly, that the message had been misunderstood. And in 2002, as a Phoenix Sun, he took a pointless potshot at Garnett by waxing ecstatic over how much better than KG his new teammate Amare Stoudemire was as a rookie. ("It's not even close," Marbury said at the time. "It's like Michael Jordan and Mario Elie.")

For those keeping score at home, now would be a good time to pull out your list of typical pro-athlete offenses and check the box next to "Incorrigible Egotism." While you're at it, you can probably check off "Misogyny," too. In September 2007, testifying in a sexual-harassment case brought against the Knicks by former team executive Anucha Browne Sanders, Marbury rejected Sanders's claim that he had referred to her as a "black bitch," but copped to using plain old "bitch," adding: "I said she doesn't run shit. I may have said fuck her." (He also admitted to having sex with a Knicks intern in the back of his truck after a group strip-club trip in 2005 — not the sort of confession a married father of three typically wants to make.) Also mark off "Conspicuous Consumption": in 2000, Marbury claimed that, as he sat in his car (a Bentley, natch) at a red light in Manhattan, thieves took his 24-inch, $150,000 diamond necklace.

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