Originally published in SLAM 48
The 6th Man: There’s something about $600,000 worth of Bentleys bling blinging in the sun like Laker rings that attracts attention, especially when they’re parked in the middle of the street. Doubly so when that street’s in Coney Island, and the pair is owned by Stephon Marbury, who’s simultaneously trying to keep a gaggle of kids in order while dribbling through his gleaming British steel like it’s the Atlanta frontcourt. The calendar says October, the weather says May, and everyone and their baby mama is stopping to stare.
Then the police turn the corner. We’re parked across the middle of the street, shooting photos with a permit that only vaguely covers the area we’re in. And even if it’s good, we’re obviously in violation of some part (or parts) of the traffic code. It’s obvious, we’re about to get shut down like the T-wolves front office.
Obvious to everyone but Stephon. Told of our impending doom, Starbury doesn’t even turn his head. “They ain’t gonna do nothin’,” he scoffs, not giving up his dribble. Sure enough, the police car simply cruises around, without as much as a rolled-down window. It is then when what was already unquestionable becomes The Truth—Steph owns Brooklyn. Going double Jigga with the Bentleys was one thing, getting the absolute respect of the streets from all comers is another.
Kicking things off at the projects where he grew up (and on the court where he got his game) was the start. Kids poured out like he was Santa Claus, come to fill stockings with crossovers and jump shots. They were playing ball, giving pounds and peering through the mirror tints of Coney Island Bentley’s finest. Then we moved down the block to the street in front of the abandoned Thunderbolt roller coaster, smells of Nathan’s hot dogs and fries conspiring with the sunlight and the sea breeze to make us all think it was summer.
Well, unless you’re down South or out West (or both), there’s no mistake what the season is now. There’s no one playing at the Garden (CI) in shorts, unless Ol’ Dirty Bastard escaped again. The season is locked in cruise, and J.R. Rider All-Star votes are piling up like Mark Cuban dollars. The best b-ball is being played in arenas now, but remember, streets is watching.
P.S. Steph’s nephew, Ebo, is the coolest kid in the world. Ask anyone.