Stephon Marbury: Calling it Quits or Blazing Down the Comeback Trail?


Sep 18, 2009

Just when you thought he couldn't get any weirder…

The motives of Stephon Marbury this week have been harder to read than Joyce's Ulysses. The 32-year-old guard, four months removed from a playoff run with the Celtics and now sitting expectantly on the open market, has made a lot of noise this week, but no one's exactly sure what for.

If you dare, take a look at Starbury's oft-updated Twitter account (nearing 3,000 tweets in under six months). Marbury's been talking up a storm, and why not? No one's paying him to play basketball, so he might as well spend all his time online these days.

Two weeks ago, Marbury's online persona was looking back on the NBA fondly, appearing to have found closure on a productive career in pro basketball.

"Basketball is just a game," he wrote. "I will say it again. Fourteen years 250 million. Hold that. I'm good.. Thank you Jesus for the blessing. Thanks NBA."

Those sound like the words of a man ready to walk away, don't they?

Never mind that Starbury got the facts of his own career wrong — he played in the NBA for 13 years, not 14, and his career earnings were barely even halfway to $250 million. Maybe he was including the endorsements and shoe sales in that figure — or maybe math just isn't the guy's strong suit. In any event, Marbury sounded as though he'd gotten everything he wanted out of professional basketball and he was ready to step aside.

That mindset didn't last long. Less than two days later, he responded with authority to the speculation that he was hanging it up:

"Retire. LOL," he tweeted. "They need for you to think I'm going to do that because they know I'm focused and ready to play this year count me in for 5 yrs."

Well, okay.

So perhaps Marbury wants to play another five years in pro basketball. So he says, at least — although it's anyone's guess whether he'll change his mind in a week or two. The next question becomes: Who on Earth is going to sign him?

Marbury is going to have to lower his standards dramatically if he wants any chance of staying in the NBA. The Celtics have passed on bringing him back; a few other NBA teams have been rumored to have interest (most notably the Wizards), but nothing has materialized. NBA training camps start in a couple of weeks — if anyone were interested in Marbury, they'd have signed him by now.

Europe is one option for aging NBA rejects. It's hard to imagine that a multi-time All-Star with over 16,000 points has become a reject at 32, but that appears to be the case. If Marbury wants to head overseas in an attempt to rejuvenate his career, that's certainly one possibility.

There's one other possible destination no one was considering: the NBA D-League.

This week, Brandt Andersen, owner of the D-League's Utah Flash, tweeted an invitation to Marbury to come aboard and join the minor league ranks. "Why not come play for us this season?" he said Wednesday. "Fans would love having [you]."

This is what it's come to.

For Marbury, it's time to face a true test of his will to play basketball. What's more important — Starbury's pride, or his love of the game?

He's no longer going to be the kid that broke into the NBA a decade ago — taking 18 shots a night, filling arenas and making millions. But if he's willing to reinvent himself, he might still have a chance.

Is Marbury really retiring? Probably not. More likely, this farewell talk was nothing more than a defense mechanism. If basketball doesn't want him, he can always claim that he never wanted basketball anyway. But after "14 years 250 million" or thereabouts, it's hard to say goodbye.

We probably haven't seen the last of Stephon Marbury. But where we see him next is a mystery. Right now, no one has the answer. Not even Marbury himself.

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