Watching the Celtics the last few weeks, one of the strangest parts of the games has been seeing Stephon Marbury struggling, looking nothing like the explosive point guard who used to carve up opposing defenses. I’ve been biting my tongue waiting for this new issue of SLAM to drop — and it’s gonna drop later this week — because I interviewed Steph for a feature in the new issue, and I completely understood what was happening on the court. But I’ll let Steph explain all that momentarily.
I happened to be in the building for Stephon Marbury’s first college basketball game. Georgia Tech was playing an exhibition game against a traveling team of college graduates, and Starbury, an 18 year old freshman, was breathtaking. He blew past guys left and right, seemed to spring three feet off the court on every jump shot, even completed a ridiculous alley-oop at one point. I remember coming home from the game that night and telling my Mom that this Starbury kid was going to be unbelievable.
As it happened, the first cover story I wrote for SLAM was on Stephon Marbury, way back in SLAM 47. And I was able to cover Steph’s career from Jersey to Phoenix to New York. He became a human punching bag for a lot of writers, from Pete Vecsey to Chad Ford to, more recently, people all over the blogosphere.
But I never could make that leap. While Steph was never was able to put it all together and become the player everyone wanted him to be, some mythic guy who led the League in points, assists and championships, I never understood how anyone could classify him a failure. Dude came from nothing, a housing project in the hood, with the weight of expectations of his entire family and the entire city of New York on his shoulders. And he made it, at least financially, made a hundred million dollars. So many guys come and go, but today, a dozen years after he left Georgia Tech early, Steph’s still here, playing this week for a chance to get to the Conference Finals. I know there are a lot of people out there who dislike him. But I’m not one of those people. (And I haven’t even mentioned Steph’s Starbury line of budget-priced shoes and gear, which has proven a viable option for so many people who can’t afford $100 sneakers.)
When everything went to hell with Steph and the Knicks this season, I watched with interest, knowing the whole circus was just making his story even more interesting. Even before his future was clear, I got him on the SLAM podcast, and when the Knicks bought him out and he signed with the Celtics, we knew it was time to get Steph back in SLAM.
Once Steph got settled in Boston, we set up a time for an interview and photo shoot in Boston. We didn’t set it up through any PR people or personal managers — Steph and I coordinated the whole thing via email. (Steph is a particularly cogent and productive emailer.)
We had a date and time set, and then a few days before the appointed hour, I got an email from Steph that the team had asked him to do a community appearance on the afternoon we were going to do the shoot/interview. Worried that I might think he was trying to change the schedule around just for the sake of being difficult, Steph emailed:
Just so you know that I’m not on any BS…This is from the PR people in Boston. They have me set to do this event right after practice. Maybe this could be something that the photographer can shoot leading into the day. We can make the shoot more of a lifestyle thing in Boston. I think we could get shots throughout the day and then leading into the evening being that we have more daylight saving time on our side. Let me know what you think tomorrow.
On the appointed day, photographer Matt Salacuse and I showed up at the Harbor School in Dorchester and met up with Steph and Brian Scalabrine, who helped a bunch of kids paint a banner for their school. When the event was over, Steph, Matt and I went outside into the surrounding neighborhood, and Matt snapped pictures of Steph for an hour or so.
The day got late and Steph suggested I give him a ride to his place back in Waltham, where the Celts have their training facility and where Steph is living in an apartment while with the Celts. I had a rental Oldsmobuick, so Steph hopped in the front and turned on the GPS in his Blackberry and pointed us toward Waltham. I pulled out the ashtray, stuck my digital recorder in there, aimed it toward Steph and hit record.
(Funny aside: When we arrived in Waltham, Matt following us in his car, we wanted to grab dinner. Steph suggested a restaurant he apparently frequents along the main drag. Matt asked Steph, “What kind of food is it?” Steph said, “Oh, it’s an American bistro.” Wow, I thought to myself, that was a pretty vivid description. Matt passed, but when Steph and I walked into the restaurant, in huge letters on the wall it read: AN AMERICAN BISTRO.)
The article in SLAM 129 is about 1/5 the length of this transcript, but this was one of the most interesting, revealing, honest interviews I’ve ever done, so I thought I’d run it all here.
As I pulled out of the school’s parking lot, Steph said, “You can ask me anything.”
So I asked him everything.
I KNOW YOU THOUGHT THE CELTS WERE INTERESTED IN SIGNING YOU, BUT DID YOU KNOW FOR SURE THEY WERE GOING TO SIGN YOU?
I knew I was going to be coming to Boston. I asked Donnie Walsh at the beginning of the year, when there were all of those talks about me getting waived, and it was reported on ESPN that the Knicks were planning to release me.
BEFORE THE SEASON?
Yeah. This was in the summertime, all of those reports were coming out. And then about 4 or 5 days before training camp was about to start, I asked Donnie Walsh, Were they planning on releasing me? He was telling me they was thinking about letting me go. So I asked him if I could have permission to talk to other teams, because…
[GPS: TURN RIGHT ON BLUE HILL AVENUE. THEN, PREPARE TO KEEP RIGHT.]
…because Boston, I thought there might be some interest. He gave me permission to talk to them. So…
HOW DOES THAT WORK, BECAUSE YOU DON’T HAVE AN AGENT, RIGHT?
SO, DID YOU LIKE JUST CALL DANNY AINGE ON YOUR OWN?
I just got in contact with him. I had the Player’s Association speak to the Celtics, and I spoke to Danny, but I had permission so it wasn’t like I didn’t do it the right way — I made sure I went through all of the proper protocol in order to move forward, being that they, the Knicks, were planning on going in another direction. They pretty much knew what they wanted to do from the beginning.
THE WEIRD PART, TO ME, WAS THAT THEY KNEW WHAT THEY WANTED TO DO BUT DIDN’T TELL YOU OR TELL THE FANS.
That’s probably how it would look to the fans, that it just happened. But, you know…I didn’t know what was going on. The only thing that I knew from what was going on was how things was playing out.
WHEN YOU CAME INTO NEW YORK, I REMEMBER I WAS AT YOUR FIRST GAME AND YOU WERE ON THE SCOREBOARD, TALKING ABOUT HOW EXCITED YOU WERE TO BE BACK IN NEW YORK. AND OBVIOUSLY IT DIDN’T WORK OUT THE WAY YOU WANTED. BUT ARE THERE PARTS OF YOUR TIME WITH THE KNICKS THAT YOU CAN LOOK BACK ON AND SAY THAT YOU ENJOYED?
I mean, I…to me it was an experience. I think as an older player, and understanding the business, you understand what it is — it’s a business at the end of the day. So, I enjoyed the experience of being there, and a lot of things happened while I was there. For me it was moreso just being able to have the opportunity to come back to my hometown team, and my favorite team, was probably the best thing that could have happened to me as far as playing basketball. Were there some times when I didn’t want to be there? There were some times when I didn’t want to be in the situations that occurred. But, you know, for the most part, when I came back this year, I was ready to play, I was ready to do whatever it would take to try to win a championship. That was my focus, and that’s been my focus ever since I’ve been in the NBA, always speaking and talking about winning a championship. At the end of the day, that’s the ultimate goal. For me, I never stopped speaking and talking about it. I was even talking about when everybody thought that I was buggin’ out and going crazy on “Mike’d Up.” That was me believing, and I felt like, if I don’t believe it, who’s going to believe it?
Being in New York, it was an experience. There are high and low times everywhere. You can ask a guy like Paul Pierce who’s been here for a long time. I remember when we were playing here and they was booing him. Every time he touched the ball, they would boo him. It goes in waves, and it’s how you handle it.
IS THAT THE TRICK, HOW YOU HANDLE THE LOW PARTS UNTIL YOU GET TO THE HIGH PARTS?
Yeah, you got to. I mean, going through adversity, what I’ve learned, you have to have faith, and if I wouldn’t have had faith, I would have crashed, with all that I’ve been through the last two years. Faith is believing in the unknown. For me, I was in such a bad place as far as not having any control over what I wanted to do, as opposed to someone having control over what I was going to do, as far as playing the sport. Mind you, I was still getting paid, so there wasn’t too much complaining that I could have done, really. So at the day it was like, Well, he’s still getting paid. But I’m like, Yo, I want to play basketball, but I’m not going to allow you to hold basketball over my head. They said, Well, if you don’t give us any money back, we’re not going to let you play for another team. And I wasn’t at that point, I wasn’t there.
PREPARE TO TURN LEFT IN POINT TWO MILES ON DUDLEY STEET
So for me, I waited. I didn’t know what was going to happen and what was going to transpire as far as how it was going to play out or what Boston would do or whatever. So, both sides got what they wanted. They got their money and I got what I wanted. But at the end of the day, was it really about money? That’s why I said, we’re speaking and talking about an organization…the Knicks, the Rangers and the Liberty, they make only three percent of the monies that come in to Cablevision. So I’m like, if they’re bringing in three percent of the monies, obviously they have way more money than I have. So is it really about money? I understand it’s a big business and it’s a corporation that they’re running, but at the same time, if you say you don’t want me to be here, why won’t you just get rid of the problem. The whole year, the Knicks were relevant because of what was going on with me. If I wouldn’t have been there and the Knicks had the season they had this year? I don’t think people would have been talking about them as much as they were talking about them this year. So, it’s kinda like…
UM, WHICH WAY DO WE GO? IS IT RECALCULATING?
[GPS: “RECALCULATING ROUTE...TURN RIGHT IN 2.5 ON ALBANY STREET.”]
YOU MENTIONED HAVING FAITH. IS THAT WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH?
I always believed that something was going to happen. I didn’t know if I was going to be playing or not, or if they was going…
BUT I DON’T EVEN MEAN IN NEW YORK. I MEAN IN GENERAL, IN LIFE.
Oh yeah. That’s always been part of my life. My spirituality has always been there. I think it heightened as I went through the tougher times in my life. Everybody in my family are God-fearing people. I think my faith and my spirituality got stronger as time progressed. I was brought up in church. My sister’s been saved over 35 years. My grandfather was a minister. So it’s embedded in the blood.
I think the most important thing was I didn’t allow their actions to control how I felt or how I was going to do things. A lot of people said how good it would’ve been if when they asked you to play, you would’ve played. It wasn’t even about that. I didn’t play because, first, D’Antoni didn’t want me to play. But I didn’t play for 3-4 weeks. I was like, nobody was looking at it from my perspective. I could go out there and get hurt from not playing in so long. I wasn’t saying I didn’t want to play because I don’t like to play basketball. The coach already stated his point. He said on TV, We’re going in another direction and Steph isn’t in the plans. So you’re asking me to play only because you don’t have enough guys? So you don’t want me to play? And he told me that when I asked him. I said, You’re basically asking me to play because you don’t have enough guys. And he was like, Yeah, that’s right.
So I was like, If I’m being a given an option, why would I want to do that? So it didn’t make any sense. But I understood that he was in a tough position because he wanted to go in another direction. He brought in another point guard, told the point guard he was going to play, he was going to start. So, you know, from that standpoint, he did what he said he was going to do.
OK, SO HERE’S A TOUGH QUESTION: AFTER WHAT YOU WENT THROUGH WITH THE COURT CASE AND BEING IN THE PAPERS AND ALL THAT, DID YOU FEEL LIKE THE KNICKS OWED YOU SOMETHING, LIKE A LITTLE MORE LOYALTY?
Nah, I mean…I didn’t have to go to court. That was basically like, Mr. Dolan might have to go on trial, and Isiah and all that…the case wasn’t about me.
THE PAPERS MADE IT ABOUT YOU. AND YOU STILL DID GO TO COURT.
Yeah, I did. I didn’t feel like they owed me anything, because I did something I wasn’t supposed to do. At the end of the day, Anucha, she dragged in whatever she could drag in to make her case work, to win the case. I didn’t feel like the Knicks owed me anything for telling the truth. I did something, and I wasn’t going to lie about it. My thing is nobody can ever say I lied to him. A lot of people might say, I don’t like what he said. But what did I say? Tell me what I said that made you feel the way that you feel. But at the end of the day, the truth was told and that was it, and I moved on. I guess people felt like I was supposed to have this disposition where I should’ve been depressed and I should’ve been down. That wasn’t the disposition that I took, because I knew what I did was wrong and there wasn’t nothing I could do about it.
I DON’T THINK PEOPLE THOUGHT YOU SHOULD BE DEPRESSED. I KNOW IF IT WAS ME I’D BE EMBARRASED.
AND MY WIFE WOULD KICK MY ASS, YOU KNOW.
Yeah. Well, it wasn’t something that had just happened. It was something that happened like four years ago. It was something that just came out. If it was something that was fresh and had just happened, it would’ve been a little bit different. This was like four years old. So, it was like, we’re bringing up stuff that happened way back when. It was a search. It was search where they wanted to see if they brought this up if it would bring some validity to the case.
[GPS: PREPARE TO TURN RIGHT]
But it was something that happened, it wasn’t something that didn’t happen. So how are you going to deal with is? But the way that they spoke about it was like, This is something that happened right when the trial was going on. I mean, I understood what was going to be.
OK, SO MIKE’D UP. I WATCHED IT AND I WAS LIKE, OK, SOMETHING’S GOING HERE…
Wasn’t nothing going on.
COME ON! YOU WERE LAUGHING AND…
First of all, I’ve been knowing Bruce since I was a little kid. So before we went on, we were bugging out. We were in the make-up room laughing, just tripping out. He was doing little skits and acting crazy. So we just went right on set. So when we resumed we was just having fun. I was like, This is TV, and if somebody goes on TV and they start laughing and bugging out, it becomes, Oh, did you see how funny that was? So when I went on and I was laughing and bugging out, I’m crazy! I’m on crack! I’m on coke! I’m on all of these different drugs! Something was wrong with me! I’m like, OK, I guess something is wrong with me. I’m just as regular as day, when you see me and when you saw me.
A lot of people, they need something to keep them going, because for themselves it’s just not happening. So they use other people for them. Is it sad? I don’t know, it’s not for me to judge, but this is what’s going on.
YOU SAY PEOPLE USED YOU TO FILL THAT VOID. HAVE YOU EVER USED PEOPLE?
Used people like what? I don’t, understand, I mean…I don’t understand what…
WHAT I’M ASKING?
WELL, LOOK AT IT THIS WAY: HAS GETTING SAVED CHANGED THE WAY YOU SEE THE WORLD OR THE WAY YOU TREAT PEOPLE?
I mean, I treat people the way I’ve always treated people. Getting saved didn’t change the way I went about how I’m treating people. I think people who don’t have an understand about how you give yourself to the Lord don’t get it. Like, one guy asked me, How does it feel? Did you wake up and all of a sudden… And I was like, I can’t explain how it feels because you don’t want to know how it feels. Because if you wanted to know, you would change yourself to feel that way, and your spiritual connection will come about, and I wouldn’t have to tell you that. It’s a feeling, it’s not something I can tell you about. It’s something that happens to you, that you go through. There’s no using nobody, what would I use somebody for?
What happens is, because I play basketball and because I do so much stuff off the court, stories and articles that’s ran about me, they don’t want to talk about basketball. They want to talk about the stuff off the court or what’s going on in my personal life, because of all the stuff that I’ve done to try to create change. So the more that I try to do to create change, the more people want to pry into the fact that, Oh, you was on YouTube. It’s not about all the things that I’ve done, it will never compare to people saying, Oh, he was on YouTube! Or, Oh, the trial! Or, Oh, Larry Brown! That’s so small compared to all the stuff that we’ve done and all the people we’ve helped and tried to help their lives. But, because of the society and the way how people think and see things, they look at something like, OK, we’re going to stick with that and we’re going to talk about that.
But I don’t allow that to define me. It’s like people got a problem with me not allowing that to define who I am and what I’ve done and what I do. So it’s a constant conversation because I’m not going to allow that to be the topic of conversation, and there’s nothing for me to say towards that.
This is what’s been said and this is how people view or look at me. My spiritual connection don’t have nothing to do with how I treat people or how I go about doing things, because I’ve never treated anybody other than how I wanted to be treated.
BUT DOESN’T IT MAKE YOU MORE AWARE OF THINGS AND PEOPLE AROUND YOU
(we talk over each other for a few seconds).
See, what happens is like for me, I was already taught a way of how to treat people and how to go about living life. When I got saved, it just allowed my spirituality as far as how I see things and how I feel, and the way my perception is toward God and what God means to me, as opposed to me doing something because I was told to do it. I’m praying for myself because I don’t need somebody else to pray for me. I can get on my knees and talk to God and continue my relationship with God. Whereas there were times before when I used to tell my Mom or my Sister, I really need you to pray for me. I don’t have to do that any more, I can do that by myself. Some people, they just don’t understand the connection. So when they don’t understand, I can’t make somebody feel what I feel. And I’m not trying to push that on nobody, ‘cause I’m not, and I won’t, because that’s not for me to do. It’s your choice, it’s your choice to do that. But this is what makes me feel good and this is what centers me. It allows me to have peace in my life, and the peace that I get within, it can never be disrupted by a human being. It can’t. Through that whole time this year in New York, at the beginning of the year, I knew I was being tested. I said, This is nothing but a test! That’s all it is! People was looking at me like, How are you smiling! Aw, I was furious, I was all of these different things, but I’m like, That’s not what’s going on. I’m not in that in place. Sorry that you thought I’m supposed to be in that place, but that’s not where I am. And I think more so it was because I think people wanted it to be that way because they were looking at the basketball side. I wasn’t looking at the basketball side.
THE GPS HAS BEEN QUIET FOR A MINUTE…
We good, though. So, that’s not where I am, I’m not on the basketball aspect of this. The way I see it is totally different. I don’t have no control over what someone else is doing, so I told the dude, If it starts raining outside, why am I going to get mad that it’s raining outside?
(LAUGHING) WHO? YOU TOLD WHO THAT?
A reporter in Philadelphia. I was like, I’m gonna go get an umbrella and then go outside! I’m not going to be mad and complain about it and allow that to ruin my day or ruin how I’m feeling. It makes no sense. I don’t got no control over that. So…for what? What is the purpose? What am I going to get out of that? I’m not going to get anything out of that. So for me, my thinking was, I just had a totally different outlook on the situation.
I UNDERSTAND. I WAS THINKING ABOUT THIS LAST NIGHT…WHEN YOU STARTED STARBURY THE BRAND, HOW DID THAT CHANGE YOU AS A PERSON? OR DID IT?
It didn’t change me as a person, because when I came out with And 1 it was the same mission.
WAIT, HERES WHAT I WAS THINKING AND TELL ME IF I’M WRONG: WHEN YOU CAME OUT WITH STARBURY THE BRAND, YOU WERE DOING A LOT OF IT YOURSELF. AND….
Well, I didn’t have the creative control when I was with And 1. I had my input, but I wasn’t able to facilitate how I really wanted it to be done. When I started with And 1, I took a leap of faith with And 1 because they’d never had shoes. All they had was t-shirts when I jumped up with them, and their price point for shoes was $50, $60. At that time—10, 13 years ago—the shoes that were selling was $150, $125 a pop. Everybody had a $100 pair of sneakers. So I came in with a whole different mindframe then, to create something that was going to be totally different from everybody else and not worry about the money on the front end but more so on the back end. So when I did Starbury, it was the same approach, same outlook, but I knew it would be broader because it was going to be sold at more stores than And 1, which was at like Finish Line. Starbury was going to be totally different, because it was 126 stores and it was going to evolve to almost 300, 400 stores. So, the way I saw it was, If I’m doing like that, I’m in the mass production business. I’m like, That’s the way to go. I owned the line. When I signed with Steve & Barry’s they offered me money up front and I said, No, y’all keep the money, I want to own everything. That’s why my motto is, I’d rather own than be owned. Because if you own it, nobody can take it away from you. So when I started, it wasn’t about how it was making me feel, because I already knew what was about to happen. I was telling people that I was going to go on Oprah. People was like, Oh, there he go, he’s crazy, something is wrong with him. He thinks he’s going on Oprah because he’s selling sneakers for $15. I was like, You don’t get it! I’m like, This isn’t about selling sneakers for $15, this is about the movement. This is about what it’s doing for people. And any time you can create something where you can allow people to have something they never had before at an affordable price, you’re changing the paradigm.
(I OPEN UP WINDOW TO PAY TOLL ON MASS TURNPIKE.)
My thinking and the way other people were thinking was just different, it was off. So they didn’t see it that way.
YOU KNOW, I NEVER DOUBTED THAT IT WOULD BE A GREAT THING FOR A SHOE LIKE THAT TO EXIST FOR FAMILIES AND KIDS AND THINGS LIKE THAT. I JUST DIDN’T UNDERSTAND HOW YOU CAN MAKE A SHOE LIKE THAT FOR $9 THAT WAS A QUALITY SHOE.
Because you can! A lot of people didn’t, though. When you don’t know the formula and you don’t know what’s going on, you’re basically going off of what you’ve been told, or what you’ve seen. Once I learned the business, and saw it didn’t cost that much money to make a shoe, I was like, Now I see why they’re making so much money. So I was like, Why not? That was on a business part. But I was also like, OK, I have a brand now. Whether my brand goes up or down, we have a brand, so we have validity in the marketplace of saying we’re in the shoes and apparel business. You see some brands go up and go down, that’s just how it is, like the stock market.
LIKE STEVE & BARRY’S, WHICH IS BANKRUPT NOW?
They pumped and they dunked. They did what they was doing and they was moving on. They saw an opportunity, saw the window, opened it and jumped out and said, I’m done. But what I’m saying is, my brand is going to be a part of your life. We’re here, we’re not going anywhere, we’re here to stay. This is who we are, we’re always going to be at the lower tier of the pyramid, and we’re not going anywhere from here on out. We’re going to be providing you with sneakers, clothes, anything you would buy at a store, we’re going to be providing that. When I landed the deal with Amazon, I was like, OK, now it’s just a matter of time. Now we’re speaking to different brick-and-mortar stores, and we’re going to be doing deals with them. Now it’s like, OK, we got the online stuff set up. We didn’t have the online stuff set up before but we had brick-and-mortar stores. Now we don’t have brick-and-mortar, but we have the online part. Once we get the brick-and-mortar, and we tie it together, it’s going to create such a diverse way of allowing people to buy product, buy things they will need.
ARE YOU GOING TO DO STARBURY STORES?
[WE EXIT TURNPIKE AND GPS TELLS US TO KEEP LEFT IN .2 MILES ON NEWTOWN.]
My whole plan…I look at it like this. When I first got into the NBA—and this is how I look at my company—I didn’t have a lot of money. Eventually, in time, you take steps. You play for your first and second years, sign a deal…that’s how I’m setting my company up, because the way I see it is this company, you don’t build a company in a day. It takes years to make your company…
[GPS HAS US TURN RIGHT ON WASHINGTON ST.]
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE YOU TO GET YOUR COMPANY TO WHERE YOU WANT IT TO BE? OR WILL IT EVER GET THERE? WILL YOU ALWAYS WANT TO MAKE IT BIGGER AND BETTER?
I want to be like Nike, that’s what I want to be like. Nike’s the best in the business, and if we can’t be like Nike we want to come short of their glory. I think for what we’re doing and for how we’re trying to evolve. We feel like there’s always going to be people at the bottom of the pyramid. I come from the bottom of the pyramid so I know that and I understand that. So, everything that I do is for my company to make it bigger, where people will always be able to have a place to go to buy product, to buy something where they can say, OK, I know I can always go there. Like VIM’s! We know at the end of the day we can go to VIM’s, we can go to Century 21…
…we can go to Dr. Jay’s. You know, that’s the lifeline. And that’s what I’m going to continue to create and I’m going to make sure that’s in effect for people. Because when I was growing up, there wasn’t a basketball player who did that for me, and I want to be that person who does it. I’m going to be that person who does it. That’s the outlook and that’s the approach. Other people are coming out with these lines and doing what we’re doing. And I’m happy that other people are doing it.
YOU MEAN LIKE AL HARRINGTON IS DOING WITH PROTÉGÉ?
Yeah, but we did it first. We’re the trendsetter and we’re the trailblazers. We did it first, but at the end of the day, if it’s something that’s helping other people, great. But we did it before the recession and we’re doing it during the recession, and we’re gonna do it after the recession. So for us, all it does is just bring credibility to our brand. It’s not a bad thing that they’re doing it. I know them. Rodney, the kid was working with me when he started, he seen everything, he seen the vision of what I was doing, so him taking it and doing it with the guys, it wasn’t something…he knew it would work. And it does work. But kids and families all over the country, they already identified with Starbury. Soon as they hear that, it’s not about Stephon Marbury, and that’s what I did. I wanted to make sure I separated that. This is not about Stephon Marbury, this is about Starbury. That’s my nickname, but it’s not about me, it’s about the people. It’s about giving access for all, about creating something that’s durable, affordable, and at a price point where they know they’ll always be able to buy something at that price point.
I WANT TO TALK ABOUT BASKETBALL.
We can talk about basketball.
BUT, I THOUGHT OF A QUESTION THAT LEADS INTO THAT. WELL, TWO QUESTIONS. ONE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BASKETBALL SO I’LL ASK THAT FIRST. AND THIS IS A QUESTION THAT PEOPLE ASK ME A LOT ABOUT YOU, AND I DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER BECAUSE I’VE NEVER ASKED YOU. BUT PEOPLE ASK ME A LOT, WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH YOUR COUSINS? WHAT’S UP WITH STEPH AND BASSIE, OR STEPH AND JAMEL? DO THEY NOT GET ALONG? WHAT’S THE DEAL?
I think people want to know if we get along because we’re cousins and we play basketball, and everybody knows that Sebastian and I play in the NBA. That’s my little cousin and I love him, and he loves me. I love Jamel, and he loves me. People have their differences, and when Sebastian got into the NBA, we had our differences, before he got into the NBA. We ironed it out and we closed the door on what happened between us, which was a family thing. I think people feel like, Oh, this is how they’re supposed to be. I’m like, Dude, when you see your cousin you probably don’t even speak to them.
(LAUGHS) TO BE HONEST, I HAVE ONE COUSIN I PROBABLY HAVEN’T EVEN SPOKEN TO IN A YEAR AND A HALF.
That’s what I’m saying.
BUT MY COUSIN AND I AREN’T FAMOUS, OR AT LEAST WELL KNOWN FOR DOING THE SAME THING.
Regardless, it doesn’t matter if you famous or not! Because we make money and we on TV and magazines that makes us different than the regular person?
I don’t, I never been that way, I’ve never viewed myself like that. Anybody and everybody that know me know, Steph ain’t never been like that. That’s just not how I rock and I don’t get down like that. Because I never was taught or seen things like that. I…
WAIT, ARE YOU SURE WE’RE SUPPOSED TO GO LEFT HERE?
(pause) Yeah, go left. You know, for me, with Jamel coming out with his book, I’m like…this is how he feels. This is what he feel. Is it true? I mean, I’m not about to go into what is or is not true with this guy with something he got going on in his personal life. But I mean, if you fee like I’m the reason why you’re not playing in the NBA, I mean…if you want to continue to tell people that and you want people to believe that? OK, well, fine. I know one thing: If I’m an NBA scout and you can help my team out and you’re nice? I’m gonna put you on my team! Period! I don’t care…
(LAUGHS) WHO YOUR COUSIN IS?
Who your cousin is! I’m gonna put you down! But I guess in some people’s minds they feel like they need somebody to blame for why they’re not successful. And if he feels like he needs to put that blame on me, I’ll take the hit for him for that, if this is what’s going to get him through life. At the end of the day, people know what the real stuff is. And that’s it.
WAS THERE EVER BEEF WITH YOU KG?
I never had any beef with him. When I left Minnesota, all of a sudden it came out that I was jealous of Kevin. I was mad because I wasn’t going to make the same amount of money as Kevin. I’m like, Hello! Wake up call! There’s a ceiling on our heads. How am I gonna make the same money that he’s gonna make if it’s already set in stone how much money we gonna make? (laughs) I mean, it just didn’t make no sense.
Then there was, I was selfish. I’m like, So you’re telling me you were just offering a guy the maximum on a contract, and this person is selfish? Why would you offer the max and then, two days later when I get traded, I’m selfish? I don’t get it. And through that whole process, with Kevin McHale and how he felt about the situation, it changed up. I was like, I’m not getting into that. It ain’t for me. I’m not getting into the nonsense. Jealous of another man? For what? That serves no purpose.
Then, when they asked me about Amare Stoudemire compared to Kevin as a rookie, I was like, Kevin didn’t play until his 67th game when he was a rookie. Why are you acting like you didn’t know this? Y‘all asking me about Amare, he had 38 points in whatever game it was, I’m like, this kid is totally different in his rookie year, and he’s way better than how Kevin was. I’m not saying he’s better than Kevin now, you’re asking me my perspective from playing with Kevin and playing with Amare. I watched Kevin his rookie year. That’s my man, I’m watching him on the tube and there ain’t nothing going on — he ain’t playing. Now people are trying to make me out…I’m like Amare at this stage and Kevin at this stage, you can’t compare that? How do I got beef with Kevin? I was like, Nah, I’m too real for y’all so I’m gonna be quiet. That’s not what y’all thought was gonna happen.
HOW DO THE CELTICS DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY THAN OTHER TEAMS YOU’VE PLAYED FOR?
It’s just different, man.
LIKE FROM THE MOMENT YOU STEP IN?
To really be honest, when I think about winning a championship, I’m like, I really thought I was going to win a championship in New York. But you’ve got to have a squad man…a squad…a squaaaaad!
This is a squad. Everything they talk about is about winning a championship. It’s about doing one thing and that’s winning. There aren’t any preconceived notions about anything other than that. It’s all about winning a championship. Every day that I’ve been here, the only thing that they talk about is winning a championship. Somebody is always talking about winning a championship. I’m like, Yo, this is the atmosphere I wanted to be around. I mean, when I came in to the NBA…First of all, I had never lost until I got to New Jersey. Never. I’d never lost. And when I was in New Jersey, everybody got hurt. So I’m like, Why is people acting like they don’t know what’s going on, like they can’t see? People were like, He didn’t get them to the Playoffs. I didn’t get them to the Playoffs? What’re you talking about? I thought you needed a whole team to go to the Playoffs? You can’t go to the Playoffs with just one person.
Now I’m in Boston, and I’m thinking about it, and I realized I thought the Knicks were good enough to go to the Playoffs. I had to smack myself, man. I was like, Damn. I felt like an ass, talking that nonsense. I thought about being on “Mike’d Up,” talking about winning a championship. I see why people said I was crazy. I’m like, Damn. I get here and it’s like, You want to win a championship, You need a squad.
IS IT HARD STEPPING IN AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON?
The most challenging thing I’ve ever had to do. By far. It’s not even close.
IS IT BECAUSE OF WHAT THE CELTICS DO BASKETBALL-WISE ON THE COURT, OR BECAUSE THESE GUYS HAVE BEEN TOGETHER FOR SO LONG…
All of that is an easy adjustment. Learning everything is difficult but it’s not as hard as not having played in so long, that part has been extremely difficult. I was working out, but if I hadn’t been working out the whole time I was off, I wouldn’t have been able to play this year. Because I would have put myself in a situation where I could’ve hurt myself. Because in order to play this game your body has to be right. You cannot just get on the court and just think you’ll be able to go out and play at a high level and not have any repercussions.
So when I started back playing, my timing…just dribbling a basketball. You think because you’re working out and you’re doing drills and shooting you’ll be OK, but when you’re playing at that speed, and you’ve got to handle the rock and make quick decisions, I was like, Man. It felt like doing it for the first time. So you’ve got to stay after, shoot, your legs are tired. You’re not in rhythm, you’re moving slower than other people, it’s just different.
Me, I’ve never been tired on the basketball court. If I was tired, it was because I played 46 minutes or something like that. After being on the court 5 minutes, 10 minutes, that was all brand new to me. I always was in tip-top shape. So playing this year, at the end of the season, while everybody has they rhythm…when guys are playing now, they’re just playing. They’re not thinking about getting tired, nobody’s thinking about how they’re going to come off a pick and roll or pull up and shoot and see if a guy’s open. It’s already done already. It’s just a game now. For me it’s like, OK, we’ve got a game tonight, I’ve got to make sure I do this, I gotta hit the open guy…and then remember I’m playing the point, so I got to learn all the new plays and learn their whole system in a month and a half.
THE DEFENSIVE SYSTEM THE CELTS USE IS KINDA DIFFERENT TOO, RIGHT?
Yeah, it’s different. But that’s easy. If you play hard you’re going to be OK.
[WE PARK AT A RESTAURANT AND GO IN TO GET DINNER. WE GET A TABLE, THEY SEND OUT FREE APPETIZERS AND WE RE-START THE INTERVIEW.]
It’s been what you want out of basketball. There isn’t any…it’s like it’s so cliché to say, Oh, the locker room cancer…why do y’all continue to talk about…
WHAT DO YOU MEAN?
That’s what I’m trying to figure out. People say I cause trouble in the locker room. Cause trouble in the locker room by what, by not saying nothing? That’s causing trouble? It makes no sense. Then it’s like, Oh, he can’t cause any trouble in the locker room because the personalities in the locker room are too strong. I’m like, man…y’all need to get ahold of y’all selves.
I want somebody to go up, just individually, to go up to players and be like, Yo, what did Steph do to you? Just tell me one thing Steph did to you. Guys will be like, Nothing. It don’t make no sense. I’m like, y’all supposed to be men? Men? Come on, man.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE PLAYING FOR ISIAH?
(exhales) That’s another feature. We could do it, but…another feature.
IS THERE A SHORT ANSWER?
Naw. It ain’t. It’s like this: It’s like you thought you had a problem that you figured out, and then all of a sudden it’s not even the question or the answer. It’s just…mindblowing. It’s mindblowing, man…it’s mindblowing.
ONE THING I THINK PEOPLE DON’T UNDERSTAND UNLESS YOU’VE BEEN THROUGH IT IS WHEN A PARENT PASSES, AND I KNOW YOUR FATHER PASSED LAST YEAR. MY WIFE’S MOM PASSED LAST YEAR AROUND THE SAME TIME AND MY WIFE CRIED EVERY DAY FOR ABOUT 8 MONTHS. SO I WENT THROUGH THAT WITH HER. AND UNLESS SOMETHING LIKE THAT HAPPENS TO YOU I DON’T THINK PEOPLE CAN REALLY GRASP HOW TRAUMATIC THAT IS.
You ain’t never gonna be able to explain it to nobody.
EXACTLY, AND I KNOW THAT ALL HAPPENED IN THE MIDDLE OF ALL THAT STUFF WITH ISIAH.
I’m like, I was in Phoenix with the team, then just woke up in the morning, packed my bags, got on a plane and just left? Yeah, OK, right. And lost $250,000? OK, sure, I wanted to do that. Right. Everybody here has known me for how long? I’ve probably got 20, 30 techs in my career. (laughs) I mean…(trails off)
BY THE WAY, I KNEW YOUR DAD A LITTLE AND HE WAS ALWAYS GREAT TO ME, AND I’M SORRY ABOUT YOUR FATHER PASSING.
I NEVER SAID ANYTHING ABOUT IT TO YOU LAST YEAR WHILE ALL THAT CRAZINESS WAS GOING ON, BUT AFTER GOING THROUGH IT WITH MY WIFE I FEEL LIKE I UNDERSTAND A LITTLE BIT WHAT YOU WERE GOING THROUGH.
I don’t wish that on nobody. I don’t wish it, I hope you don’t gotta ever go through that. I mean, just the whole experience, the whole experience is like…you try to…like, I never really understood how people could be depressed. You say it so freely. My mother always said try to eliminate the word “never.” Like, never use the word never, because you never know what you’re going to do, you never know how you’re going to feel, you never know what you’re going to say.
NEVER SAY NEVER.
You gotta eliminate that word out of your vocabulary. But depressed? Life’s too good, how can you be depressed? Man, I was in the bed for a month. I didn’t want to go nowhere. I didn’t even want to take a shower. My wife was like, Stephon, you gotta go take a shower. I was like, For what, I took a shower two days ago. I’m just lying down watching TV. My wife was like, That’s not you. I was like, Man… it just hits you in waves, different days. Even some times when I see a picture I’ll laugh and cry at the same time. But now you can start dwelling on some of the good times and think of all of the funny things. But that first two, three months? Oh my God. I was having visions every day of my father being lowered into the ground. Then you gotta grieve in public. You’re constantly reminded of it, because everybody knows about it, even people who don’t watch basketball. I had like 10 helicopters over the church, TV cameras, photographers…it was crazy! My grandmother, she said, when you’re born you don’t know, when you die you don’t know. So you gotta do the best you can do in this life, because it’s just a short time in between, that timeline.
Yeah, that dash, that timeline. It’s a short time. As long as we think we’re living, 80 years, 90 years? That’s not a long time. Because you’re dead forever.
But that’s why I said, in New York, I can’t say anything bad about New York because I don’t have anything bad to say about it. I don’t like how the exit was, but it was an exit. At the end of the day, I had a great time. The fans in New York were great. People are like, They’re fickle fans! I’m like, who don’t want to see their team win? They want to see a winning product. I understand that. And I understand that because I’m from there. Guys that’s not from there, they’ll never understand how it is when you win in New York. When they win, shoot. But what about when you’re not winning? You’re not going to win all the time. Every franchise goes through that. The Lakers went through it, Boston went through it, the Yankees.
I’m still a Knicks fan. That’s my hometown team. Because of the way they went about their business, that’s not going to change the way I feel about the Knicks. I love the Knicks. I’ve been loving them since I was a little kid. That’s not going to change. It can’t change. If that changes, that’s when it’s phony and it’s fake and it’s not real, it’s not authentic. If I can say what I’m saying now, with conviction. I’m not down with saying whatever is the thing to say. I’m down with saying what’s real and how I feel. And I love the Knicks. That’s always going to be where my heart is at. But it didn’t work out.
ITS FUNNY TO ME THAT THE KNICKS COULDN’T USE YOU BUT THE TEAM TRYING TO WIN A SECOND TITLE CAN USE YOU.
That’s why I was laughing. The dude on TV, Al Trautwig, when Boston lost to them and before I was with Boston, he said, Stephon Marbury is making these rumors up that he’s going to go to Boston. I’m like, Wow. Is it that deep? You can actually go on TV and say that? And now that I’m in Boston, I’m like…
YOU SHOULD SEND HIM AN AUTOGRAPHED CELTICS JERSEY.
Yo, my brother told me they were showing the highlights after we played in Atlanta, when I was coming up, Trautwig was like, on TV, “Don’t look, don’t look.” Literally telling the viewers not to watch what was coming up next. My brother was dying laughing, saying, The hate is so deep. I was like, Come on man, it’s over with.
HOW MUCH LONGER DO YOU THINK YOU’LL PLAY?
Probably like another 4 or 5 years.
YOU BASICALLY GOT A YEAR OFF.
DID YOU HEAL UP SOME?
Man. That was the plus-side of everything, having surgery and then having a whole year to rest. Because that’s really how long it takes to recover from surgery, it takes a whole year. That’s why I said, there were so many other different things. If I’d have been playing, all of what was needed for my company, all the things that needed to be done, it wouldn’t have took off in the timely fashion that it did. It wouldn’t have happened if I’d have been playing. That was crazy. My mother was like, God’s going to work everything out, don’t worry about it. Because at one point I was like, Man…I don’t think I’m going to play this year. I was like, that’s wrong. Then they said they wanted to go in another direction, I didn’t say that. My Mom was like, Stephon, I know how hard it is but you’ve just got to believe and God is going to work everything out. You know, you get frustrated or aggravated about it because you know you don’t have any control over the situation. So you’re like, Damn. It’s like, man, if y’all didn’t want me to play, why didn’t you just let me go? But…it was what it was.
So many players have been like, Yo man, so good to see you back on the court. I’m happy for you. Because everybody saw what was going on. Guys wasn’t voicing their opinions about it, but you hear. They weren’t in the TV or newspapers, but guys was like, Damn.