by Russ Bengtson

Question: Is there another NBA player who got more ink this off-season than Stephon Marbury? (No, not that kind of ink.) Considering that he didn’t get drafted, injured (or drafted and injured), traded, extended, or signed to a ludicrous free agent deal, and he didn’t play for Team USA, it’s amazing he was able to stay in the headlines as much as he did. (Well, given the links that I’m sure are appearing to the right of this column, maybe it isn’t.)

Anyway, much like the Wu, Stephon, he got somethin’. Somethin’ that makes people want to pay attention. And whether it’s making old van graffiti new again, or handing out sneakers to half the country, or converting to Christianity (meet your new best friend), or keeping the best NBA blog ever, Starbury’s got us all hooked.

I was going to run an old T-Mac interview today, but then I found this enormous All-Star 2003 Word file which included the Starbury interview below. This was Steph’s second All-Star appearance, his first as a member of the Phoenix Suns, whom he had joined via trade in the summer of 2001. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, NBA All-Star media day is much like the Super Bowl’s. All the players gather in one room (usually a hotel ballroom), one conference at a time, and the world’s press is unleashed upon them. This provides for many a hilarious moment, as you watch beatwriters on a deadline duke it out with radio show hosts scrapping for station IDs, webmasters trying to out-esoteric each other, and (especially in ’03) countless members of the Chinese media asking anyone they could get their hands on about Yao Ming. The easiest thing to do in this situation is to find a table that’s not entirely swamped (good luck ever getting to Allen Iverson), set your tape recorder down, and just watch.

In this case, Marbury was a late get for me. I was working on a Steve Nash feature (the first part of the All-Star document this was taken from is a more or less complete transcript of Nash’s entire session—to come later, perhaps), and when I was done with Steve, I went around seeking what his peers thought of him. Apparently I got to Steph early, because he covered a lot before I finally got to ask him about Nash. What follows is the non-Nash stuff. I don’t think I asked any of the questions.

(I’m also not sure if I transcribed this entire thing myself, or if I just went back and verified it up. I DO remember only typing out “youknowmsayin” once, then copying and pasting wherever necessary. It’s likely that, had I used any of these quotes, I would have de-youknowmsayin’d them to an extent, but in the interests of accuracy, I present the unedited transcript.)

Q: What type of music do you listen to, who’s your favorite?
A: I don’t really got no favorite now, because my favorite died. Biggie was my favorite. But I listen to Fat Joe, 50 Cent, Fab, Jay—all them dudes. I love all them dudes. I listen to everybody.
Q: What’s cool is you respect them and all the hip-hop stars, they respect you.
A: Oh yeah, you gotta respect them, because everybody thinks that they’re just making songs. They’re in the studio forever and all day, trying to make it perfect youknowmsayin for our ears, youknowmsayin. For them to fullfil my ears and let me youknowmsayin hear what I want to hear, it’s all love.
Q: Favorite video games.
A: I play Madden. I don’t know how to play basketball. I gotta play Amare today, he’s gonna tear me up. I don’t know how to play basketball at all.
I mean, I know how to play but I’m just not good. Them dudes is like—they be settin’ picks, callin’ plays, youknowmsayin—runnin’ high pick and rolls, runnin’—I’m serious—switchin’ up and goin’ zone defense, I don’t know how to do all of that.
Q: The game got you nice, though. Happy with yourself?
A: Nah, I never really play with myself, I never even play. I used to play the one with Iverson on the cover, I knew how to play that one. And I used to play the old, old game, like, Double Dribble. I’m nice at Double Dribble. I could play Double Dribble all day on the corner.
Q: Is that the first video game you remember playing?
A: Nah, we had an Aquaria—Aquarium computer? We used to play on that. And Colecovision, Atari.
Q: How wild was it when you first saw yourself on a video game?
A: I was buggin’ out. I wanted to shoot all the balls, I didn’t want to pass the ball at all. It was crazy seeing yourself do moves and stuff. And then when you score they say your name. All that was cool. I used to like all that.
Q: People come up to you and say “Steph, you had 40 with me” all night?
A: Yeah, that happened all the time.
Q: [Jason] Kidd gets the Nets to the Finals [last season], people were saying ‘that was the most lopsided trade in NBA history.’
A: What did you say?
Q: Uh, I was covering the Heat then, I had nothing to do with…
A: But what did you say? You still had a…
Q: No—it looked in the Nets favor at that moment.
A: Everybody rode with the high horse. And that’s natural in professional sports, you accept it and you move on. I mean, I felt like the trade was lopsided last year too. I’m not gonna sit here and say that I thought that it was an even trade last year. But I also said that you don’t view this trade off of one year—you view this off of five, six years. Longevity. Youknowmsayin? That’s who got the best end of it. Youknowmsayin. But…
Q: Did that help motivate you at all?
A: Um, I didn’t really care about that. I think what probably the most pushed me was them making it to the Finals. That actually helped me, because then instead of me turning it into a negative I kinda turned it into a positive. As far as, if they could do it, we could do it. Anybody could do it, all you gotta do is believe. Once you start believing that you could do it, that’s it. Because it’s there for you to do, it’s just upon you. And the team that we have now, anything can happen with our team. We can go on a run. Youknowmsayin We run off 15 or 20 games, 5 out of 20, youknowmsayin that makes the months go quicker, you don’t gotta to practice as much, youknowmsayin, when you winnin’ everything change, youknowmsayin, and your mindset as far as winning changes—you start believing and start feelin’ like you’re not gonna lose. We went through that and we went through a hard time, but the best thing about our team is that we understand who we are as a team now. 50 games into the season we know who we are—you should know, but for us as a young team we know who we are, and by us knowing who we are when we go on a basketball court we know when we’re BSing and we know when we’re playing youknowmsayin when we’re not playing with energy and we’re not playing defense we know that, we can feel that, we can sense that.
Q: Can you believe this kid Amare Stoudemire is outta high school six months?
A: It’s crazy. I wouldn’t say I don’t believe it, I probably say I can’t believe that it’s happening so fast. He’s a guy when you first see him it’s like ‘wow.’ Hey, you got an abundance of talent sitting in this seat and it’s kinda crazy, but for him to be doing what he’s doing so fast it’s amazing.
Q: How do you view Gary Payton’s game. He’s an older guy who doesn’t have a crossover. How does a guy like you look at him?
A: He just beat you off of just knowin’, man. He just beat you off of just knowin’. He just know that he’s gonna go there and I’m gonna go here, youknowmsayin, he don’t do nothin’ tricky, youknowmsayin, he don’t gotta use no crossover. [excited, speeding up as he goes] His crossover’s so old-fashioned he go like that [leans one way] and like that [leans other way] youknowmsayin, but you be over there, though, youknowmsayin, like he get you so quick with it, youknowmsayin, he don’t do no **voom** youknowmsayin no fast crossover, he get you crazy old-school game, youknowmsayin like [higher pitched] boop-boop.
And then like, he just back you down, youknowmsayin, he don’t waste no energy, that’s why he play so long, he don’t waste no energy doin’ stupid things, youknowmsayin he just be out there just like all right, youknowmsayin, I’m totally in control of what’s goin’ on.,
Q: How was he to you when you first came in the League?
A: He tried to bully me at first, but then me and him locked up, and he was like all right young fella, youknowmsayin. But that’s with anybody—you respect the young dudes when they lock up with you and you know that they ain’t no punk, youknowmsayin. G will try to punk you at first, but once you let him know you ain’t no punk, and he respect your game, youknowmsayin, he respect you as a player. youknowmsayin
But I’ve learned from him, I’ve learned a lot from him and John Stockton. Them two dudes—on pick and rolls I’ve learned how to drag, and wait for the big man to go, then run up behind they back, I learned that from Gary. I stole some of his things, I stole a couple things from him.
Q: How’s he able to score so much?
A: Because he knows the game. He’s been playing for so long. It’s like anything, the more and more you do it, the better you’re gonna get. I mean if you’re workin’ at it. And Gary Payton is one of the guys who you know every year he’s gonna play the same way, he’s gonna do what he does, youknowmsayin.

[NOTE: No idea what the question was to the answer below. But this was supposed to be Michael Jordan’s last All-Star game, and he had not been voted a starter. As of interview time, no one on the East had offered to give up their starting spot. Eventually, Vince Carter bitched out graciously stepped aside.]

A: I think Michael Jordan—it’s gonna be kind of sad, because here’s a guy you’ve seen all your—as a kid, before you even touched the NBA you’ve been watchin’ him, you playin’ against him, and now he’s about to leave the game for good. To be a basketball player and to see that, it’s like you’ll never see Michael Jordan flyin’ across the air no more. It’s not like somebody dyin’, it’s like seein’ something that you’ll never see again. And that’s kind of hard to deal with, youknowmsayin, especially as a fan. Because we all fans, if they don’t want to admit it, we all fans. Every last one of us. I mean, if I was him, I’d probably be a fan of myself. If I was watchin’ TV, I’d probably be a fan of myself. I mean, because that’s how amazing the dude is. When he’s walkin’ what does he think about, like, youknowmsayin, It’s not like if he says ‘I’m the baddest person to ever play this game’ someone’s gonna argue with him? Youknowmsayin Everybody’s gonna be like yeah, yeah, you right. So to not be able to see that again is gonna be hard.
And for Yao Ming, it’s great for him to be in this situation.
Q: Bother you Mike’s not starting? Does that matter?
A: I mean, it bother me. I felt like he should have started.
Q: Should Vince have given up his spot?
A: I’m not gettin’ into all of that. Should he, should he not? I mean, I think that he should start. That’s my opinion.
Q: Is there something you guys could do as players in the game to acknowledge him? Would you want to do something?
A: I would do anything that anybody or whatever we could do to acknowledge him. I wish we could buy him somethin’, we can’t buy him nothin’. [Laughs] Youknowmsayin, we can’t buy him nothin’. I don’t know. I mean maybe we could just sit there and just cry, maybe we just cry when he—I know I’m gonna cry, I already know that. Because, it’s like losing a brother you never had, youknowmsayin, it’s like, as far as basketball, you know? It’s crazy. But time has to go on, it doesn’t stop for anyone, and you make the best of your time and you keep it movin’.
Q: Any prospects for this skills challenge?
A: Like I said before, if I’da known this thing was gonna be in front of all these people man, I don’t think I’da said yes to that, man. Stu Jackson kinda tricked me, man, ‘cause, he made it like yeah, yeah, yeah—I’m like yeah, I’ll come and do that. I’m thinkin’ it’s like at the World Congress Center, or at a high school or somethin’. And then when I start lookin’ I’m like Jason, Gary—you’ve got three of the top point guards in the NBA, I’m like hold up, they’re not showin’ this at—after my sister told me about it, I was like hold up, they’re really are showin’ this thing on TV. I mean, it’s kinda crazy but—I think Jason’s gonna win, I’m puttin’ my money on Jason.