Stephon Marbury: A Kid From Coney Island

Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint.

By David Cordova

In New York City, there has always been one last name that has been synonymous with New York City for more than 40 years and still continues to ring bells even today. That name is Marbury.

There were five brothers that starred at Abraham Lincoln High School in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. First, it was Eric, who graduated in 1978, and went on to play four years at the University of Georgia. Then there was Don, Jr., who graduated in 1982, and went on to play at two junior colleges and then finished out at Texas A&M. Then there was Norman, who graduated in 1990, went to junior college and then played at St. Francis College in downtown Brooklyn.

The fourth brother, Stephon, would be the chosen one, as he would ascend to bigger and better heights than his brother. He would win a city championship for the Railsplitters in his senior season in 1995, as well as win numerous honors and play in the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Magic Johnson Roundball Classic. 

April 28th, 2019 – Following a screening of the film, Stephon Marbury poses with the directors of the film, Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah, and producer, Nina Yang Bongiovi. (Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint)

After one season at Georgia Tech University, he would be the No. 4 pick in the 1996 NBA Draft to the Milwaukee Bucks and then would be momentarily traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he would spend the first two-and-a-half seasons of his career, before playing for the New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets, the Phoenix Suns, the New York Knicks, and the Boston Celtics ina 13-year career. Then, he would go on to play in China for eight seasons, winning three championships in the Chinese Basketball Association with the Beijing Ducks. 

Which all leads to the present day, as the Tribeca Film Festival premiered his new documentary, “A Kid From Coney Island,” this past weekend. The story, directed by Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah, goes through the journey of his life as a child prodigy, being a high school All-American, playing for a year at Georgia Tech, fulfilling a lifelong dream of being drafted. 

Those were the good parts of the film. The rough sides of the film were when the business side set in. The film also chronicled his relationship with Kevin Garnett and the reason why Marbury ultimately decided to leave Minnesota in 1999. Then, there was his time with the New Jersey Nets, when they were a losing team. And then there were the Knicks years, which were the issues with management and also the tumultuous relationship with Larry Brown that went all the way back to the 2004 Olympics. And then there was the passing of the family patriarch, Don Marbury, Sr, which hit Stephon hard.

April 10th, 1995. Stephon Marbury and Chamique Holdsclaw, both of New York City’s best players on the the boys and girls scenes, respectively, were named Player of the Year by the New York Daily News. (Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News).

Then after finishing out his tenure with the Boston Celtics, he would go on to play in China for the final eight years of his career. It is in China where he finds peace and happiness and experiences plenty of joy. For all intents and purposes, he is an ambassador and a Chinese citizen, and even has a museum which showcases all of his lifetime accomplishments and a statue of him. 

Towards the end of the film, Marbury comes back to the old neighborhood in Coney Island and is showered with love and adulation. He communicates with the people, even gives the little kids a dollar apiece so they could buy themselves treats of their choice. But it is one interaction in the movie that makes the film even more interesting.

In the barbershop scene, Marbury meets a little kid named Xavier Bell, who may be at least seven or eight years old, and exchanges some great dialogue as Xavier is getting his haircut. Marbury asks him what his dream is. Xavier replies with the answer that many kids from the ‘hood have: That he wanted to go the NBA.

March 14th, 1997. Stephon Marbury goes past Allen Iverson in a game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Philadelphia 76ers when both were rookies. (Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Daily News).

Marbury replied with, “You can be the President of the United States. Did anybody tell you that?” Xavier replies, “No.” With that, Marbury wipes his eyes with tears, and it is realized that he sees himself at Xavier’s age. When his haircut is finished, Marbury tells Xavier, “You got a Marbury haircut.” And laughs. He then gives Xavier a bag filled with goodies and lets him go on his way. After that powerful dialogue, he replies with, “That’s a wrap!,” signaling the end of the film.

In the Q & A session following the screening, when asked what he would tell his 18-year-old self if he could go back in a time-machine to 1995, Marbury replied, “What would I tell him? Keep your head up. I mean to be honest, growing up, my mom, she always taught us, ‘Treat people the way you want to be treated and it’ll come back to you the same way.’ You know, for me, I lived a life, and I don’t have no regrets at all, as I stand here.” 

Continued Marbury. “I’m pretty much am so excited that I’m able to answer this question. Because if I hadn’t done everything that I’ve done, I wouldn’t be able to talk to you right now, I would be someplace else. People wouldn’t have been able to see what they saw today and the world wouldn’t be able to see this. I feel like, going through everything that I went through, it was supposed to happen. You know, me knowing that it was supposed to happen, and I don’t look back to say, ‘Man, I wish I would’ve made that shot or I wish I would’ve made that pass or I wish I would’ve did this or said that.’ I mean, because it’s all part of a learning curve in living this life, nobody doesn’t know what they’re actually going to experience in the next hour, they know where they’re going, but nobody’s promised life. Everybody could blow up right now, we don’t know that, but it could happen. I’m just saying, things like that happen, so you know, you don’t want that to happen, but at the same time, for me, I don’t look at going back backwards, I just keep on trying to go forward.”

This Friday and Saturday, the remaning two screenings of the film will be shown at the Regal Cinemas in Battery Park and the Village East Cinema, also as part of the Tribeca Film Festival. One thing is for certain. Life is a song worth singing for Stephon Marbury. He’s seen highs and lows, triumphs and heartbreaks, joy and despair. But at the end of the day, he’s lived a great life, due to the game of basketball and he’s made an impact all over the world. Again, life is a song worth singing.

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