A look back at a classic Stephon Marbury interview from SLAM 21.
SLAM: How was your transition to the pros? Was it easier or harder than you thought it would be?
SM: It was harder, as far as…mentally. Playing basketball, you know you’re going to learn if you’re willing to learn. You know, if you work hard, that you’re capable of leaning and doing the things. The mental toughness plays a part, as far as traveling, playing one game this night, another game the next night, sleeping in different beds, dealing with different people. Then you go home for about 12 days, you get into a rhythm…you get so used to it—sleeping in your own bed and just doing things naturally. When you go on the road, it’s like you’ve got to be extra cautious of what you’re doing, as far as staying out.
And all of that stuff is temptation. I mean temptation, in your first year, as a rookie…it’s all glamour-like. It starts to be like, “Um.. should I go to do this? Should I go do that? “ It’s like a game of chess.. and you’re taking forever to make a decision. But, in my situation, I knew what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be in the Playoffs. I knew I wanted to have that feeling that all the veterans have, like Michael Jordan. I wanna reach that goal—to be able to be on that ultimate level.
SLAM: Do you miss college?
SM: Nope, not at all. I don’t miss college at all.
SLAM: Was there one particular moment when you knew you belonged in the NBA?
SM: I can honestly say that it hit me when I got hit by that pick against Denver [on November 29th]. Everybody thought I wasn’t going to go back in. and then I came back out and had 30 points. People were like “ You know, this kid is mentally tough.”
I think about it, and I was just talking to my brother about it…you know, I think about it, I look at it and say “ My neck felt like it was off!” I didn’t wanna go back and play but I knew about it. That’s when you’re playing fake, and your brothers are like, “Why didn’t you go back into the game?” That’s where the mental toughness comes in, from playing in the streets of New York and in Brooklyn. And that’s when I realized [I belonged].
SLAM: What was your best game ever in your entire life? Was there a game when you just—every shot you hit, every pass you made?
SM: Everything counts, but the NBA, that’s the ultimate. My best game that I played was against Milwaukee [on April 18th] when I had 17 assists. I mean I was just finding people everywhere. Everywhere! Like I was running around people in circles. I was watching the game [afterwards] and I was like, “Dag—I was running around like a rat!” You know? I looked like a little rat. And I’m just dropping dimes. Dropping dimes. Dropping dimes.
SLAM: Was there any added incentive? Because it was Milwaukee?
SM: I mean, yeah, it was, kinda. I mean, the coach looked at me at the end of the game and winked at me. And I was like, “Damn,” you know, “You just messed up. You never should have traded me.” ‘Cause if I would’ve had Big Dog and Vin Baker, sssss, that’s like… Man! That’s starting something. That’s playing with matches. I mean, you’re playing with two guys that you know can score, you know you gonna get you some points. Two All-Stars.
SLAM: Who was your toughest opponent of all the point guards?
SM: Everybody was tough. The way I look at it, every point guard out there was hard. There’s one person that I don’t like playing against, and that’s Terrell Brandon—’cause he runs about a trillion picks, but don’t put that in the magazine.
SLAM: No problem. What was it like to face Gary Payton?
SM: It was fun. I think it was more like, “Wow I’m playing against these guys…I’m checking these guys..” I was just watching. Now I pretty much know how the game is played. There’s a big difference when you know something and you don’t. And now I know more than I did last year, but I have more to learn. It was fun playing against them, because I was both learning and trying to do things against them that I already knew.
SLAM: Were you taking moves from them?
SM: Oh yeah [laughs]. I took moves from everybody. I got moves from every point guard from Allen Iverson to Rex Walters. If see somebody do something that I think is going to help advance my game, I’ll add it to my game.
SLAM: What’s the biggest misconception people have about you?
SM: People don’t know me, and they hear things. When you hear something [you] first think, “ Oh, that’s how he probably is.” That’s just natural. When I read a magazine about someone else, that what I’m gonna think, unless I meet them. But I don’t usually judge people. I know how that feels, so I really don’t do that. That’s just how society is. Nobody wants to read nothing good; everybody just wants to read controversy. ‘Cause controversy sells.
I just look at it as…maybe people would say I’m arrogant, cocky. I am cocky! I mean, I’m cocky in my own way. By cocky I’m saying that [I know] I’m better than everyone else. I have to be cocky to play this game. If you’re not, then they’ll run over you. This is a league where they’ll embarrass you, and nobody likes to get embarrassed. When me and Allen put moves on veterans they don’t look at it like, “Oh well. He just got me,” ’cause the whole world is watching. You know, ESPN [sings din ni-nih-nih-nih theme, laughs]…