How weird is Stephon Marbury?

By ADAM REILLY  |  March 10, 2009

In the Mike'd Up interview, meanwhile, Marbury explained his affinity for since-fired Knicks coach Isiah Thomas (who would later lose the aforementioned sexual-harassment suit along with Madison Square Garden; feud with Marbury; and get canned) in oddly religious terms. Thomas, Marbury said, is "a man's man — and he can see the light." Then he raised his eyes skyward. "And that light is that . . . you're going places?" guest host Bruce Beck asked gamely. "Hey, it's how people want to look at it," Marbury coyly answered.

Strangest of all, though, was Marbury's vivid recollection of a mysterious, sublime connection that he'd recently experienced with his sister, Stephanie. Here's how it went:

BECK: Are you comfortable being Steph these days? And is it fair to say you've grown in that regard?

MARBURY: Man . . . I grew so much. I mean, I had so many people that was praying for me and pushing for me. My sister been praying for me since I was born — my sister Stephanie, my namesake. . . . [My sister] been praying for this day forever, and it finally happened yesterday when I kissed her, and I felt her body and I felt her soul. I was delighted to be kissing her. I couldn't even cry, because I knew they were gonna be happy tears, so I was able to control them. You only really cry [with] the bad stuff.

The snide take on this exchange —Marbury kissed his sister, and dug it! — is good for cheap laughs. But something more perplexing actually seems to be at work here. It's evident that Marbury had a powerful emotional experience he wants to describe. It's also evident that he doesn't know how to explain himself in terms intelligible to the interviewer or the home audience — or anybody else. Moreover, he doesn't even comprehend the basic parameters within which the conversation is supposed to proceed. He seems to be speaking some sort of interplanetary Esperanto, equally unintelligible to the (mostly) white sportswriters who cover him and the (mostly) black athletes who are his peers. Or perhaps he suffers from an Asperger's-like condition that renders even the most mundane off-the-court interactions perilous.

Seen in this light, some of Marbury's stranger statements and actions take on a different look. After his banishment from the Knicks, for example, Marbury baffled pretty much everyone by attending a Knicks-Lakers game in LA; he sat courtside (not on the bench, but with his own paid-for ticket!), and spent a lot of time talking on his cell phone. Maybe Marbury was irked at the lack of support he'd received from his teammates during his ongoing feud with Knicks management, and wanted to fuck with their heads. Then again, maybe he had nothing else to do — and literally couldn't fathom just how inappropriate and disruptive it was for him to be there.

Catch a falling star
In his interactions with the media, Marbury can oscillate between cooperative and combative with dizzying speed. He'll playfully giggle and allow certain lines of questioning — but then, seemingly for no reason, refuse to abide by others. With Beck on Mike'd Up, he bared his soul — then refused to do a closing lightning round packed with softball questions (e.g., will the Knicks be better next year?). Similarly, after showing New York's Craggs how he gets in touch with the Almighty, Marbury suddenly cut the writer off for contacting his assistant without his permission (which, as Craggs dryly noted, seemed backward).

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