A look back at a classic Stephon Marbury interview from SLAM 21.
SLAM: That crossover Allen did to Jordan….
SM: Yeah, I know. He got me, too. I beat Allen before, when we played at our place [Minnesota] and then when we were in Philly he crossed me. I don’t like saying it, but I got…yo! But that’s just part of the game.
Like Jordan—he got crossed, and he was there, lying there—it was right in his face. Everybody’s seen him getting crossed up, but [Jordan] was like “Yeah, he really didn’t do nothing.” [Allen] really got him. But it’s embarrassing at this level, and nobody wants to get embarrassed at this level.
SLAM: As a kid, what NBA players did you idolize?
SM: Magic! Magic Johnson. I still idolize him, Magic Johnson; to this day even. And now, I’m more Isiah [Thomas]. But Isiah just ’cause of his mental toughness. He was just so mentally tough. I know what they mean now, when they say he was tough. Just playing hard and having guts. You can see what it’s really about.
SLAM: Did you always know you were going to do this for a living, even as a little kid?
SM: Yeah, my brother said [that] when I was a baby, he picked me up, and he told my brothers and my mother and my father that I was going to be great. My whole family is so close…we all just live vicariously through each other. He just told me, “You’re going to be great.” And as I was growing up, he used to always tell me, because I always wanted to listen. I always wanted to learn. I always wanted to be better. I always wanted to work on things I needed to work on.
SLAM: How has that affected you, growing up with ballers for brothers?
SM: It made me a stronger player and stronger person. You learn to forgive, to forget, to take blows, to give blows, to know when to give blows, to know when to play physical, to know when to talk and when not to talk, to know when to say something to a ref. You learn a lot of things playing the game in tournaments. With certain refs, you kind of get a feel for the refs at the beginning of the game: whether they’re gonna take any stuff or not. So you pretty much get a feeling by playing basketball so long. The game starts to be uncanny, natural to you.
SLAM: Which one of your brothers would you say is the best player?
SM: My brother JuJu [Donald Jr.]—that’s the guy. When everybody would say, “Stephon idolizes Kenny Anderson,” I liked Kenny Anderson [so] I just went along with it, but JuJu’s the guy who I thought was better than all the other guys. It was just that he didn’t have the breaks they had. They had a little more exposure, and his thing wasn’t as big, but my brother was just as good. And better than a lot of them. And a lot of them know. Even now, if I go and ask Grant Hill, he’ll say “’You’re brother’s real good, yo’.” That’s the guy I’ll pretty much look to, as far as being the best.
SLAM: What’s the best piece of advice another player has given you?
SM: Michael Jordan, when he said that in the NBA, if you have a bad game [one] night, you’ve gotta rebound the next night. You can’t worry about the game you just played, ‘cause if you thrive on that game, then you’re gonna play bad the next night. That’s how it is—you’re going to have bad nights. You can’t be perfect for 82 games. You’re gonna make mistakes, you’re gonna have nights when you have eight or nine turnovers. You don’t want that to happen, but I always try to rebound when it does.
SLAM: What is it about basketball that you love so much?
SM: The enjoyment I get out of playing basketball comes when I get on a team that I knew wasn’t that good, when they was at the bottom, and then I brought them up. On a team that’s already good—I don’t feel comfortable playing on a team like that. I feel a lot more comfortable being on a team when the odds are against them. It’s like, “No, they ain’t gonna do it.” They’re doubting us, like saying I’m not [and] we’re not gonna do it. And when I see a guy like Dean Garrett, it makes me feel good, knowing that I just put him in a situation where he can come back making a million dollars, a million-and-a-half. And he can tell somebody, “Nobody will ever understand how [Stephon] took care of getting me the ball.” Guys on my team will say, “You know you owe half your check to Stephon!” And he’ll say, “I know.”
[I love] seeing that, making people better, even on my high school team. I was taking kids that played street ball, from off the street into high school tournaments. And then they become players, because they play with me and watch me. And I tell them. They don’t look at me when I’m telling them something, like “Why you trying to tell me something?” They know I’ve been playing a long time. They know I’ve been around camps and I’ve been around so many people, as far as playing basketball. So when I see them do well, and when we win the state championship, and we’re executing, we’re running plays…that makes me feel good, because I know I’ve accomplished something.