SLAMonline Top 50: Shawn Marion, no. 23

by October 01, 2008

by Jeff Fox

There’s no way this is going to sit well with Shawn Marion. Only the 23rd best player in the L? That ain’t going to please Mr. Matrix. But this perceived slight is just more fuel for the fire–more propaganda for the “Shawn Against the World Movement.” Haven’t you heard? The hoops world is out to get the man. The Rodney Dangerfield of the NBA, Marion just don’t get no respect.

Seemingly already possessing the perfect nickname for his game–The Matrix–maybe another handle is more fitting. The Enigma. Behold.

Despite constant complaining about a perceived lack of respect and demanding a trade out of Phoenix, Marion was still generally considered a team player and played his hardest on the court every night.

Despite being asked to guard every position on the court at one time or another and widely viewed as one of the League’s top defenders (he was fourth in voting for the DPOY award in ’07), he’s never been named to the League’s All-Defensive team.

Despite being a thin 6-7, 220lbs, undersized even for a small forward, Marion was one of the League’s best power forwards during his later years in Phoenix.

Despite playing power forward for years, he has less back-to-the-baskets moves than Charles Oakley did.

Despite feeling that he didn’t get enough shots/touches on offense, he lead the team in field goal attempts two out of his last four full seasons with the Suns, and was second in shots the other two years.

Despite being considered underrated, the very fact that he was mentioned as being underrated so often caused him to not be underrated anymore.

Despite feeling he isn’t given enough respect, he was the highest paid player on the Suns and will be the top earner on the Heat this season, making over $17 million.

Despite having the ugliest shooting stroke known to man, Marion is an accurate shooter (career–48% FG, 34% 3PT, 82% FT) able to hit shots from anywhere on the court.

Despite feeling his talent is overlooked, a few more solid seasons and he probably has done enough to get himself into the Hall of Fame when he retires.

Obviously, Marion is an enigmatic dude with a game not easily pigeonholed or classified. Is he a small forward or a power forward? How can such an ugly shot technique actually be fairly effective? How can a player with no real set plays on offense (besides alley oops) and no go-to moves score so many points and get so many shot attempts?

Maybe that’s Shawn Marion’s genius–there has never been a player like him in the history of the game and probably won’t be another anytime soon. Maybe that is also the reason he is isn’t often mentioned among the game’s greats–his contributions and talents are too complicated for a world that wants easy answers to digest.

So where does Marion find himself now, entering his first full season in South Beach? In the exact same position he so desperately wanted to get out of in Phoenix–as the dreaded third wheel. Except now, instead of Nash and Amare keeping him from individual glory, it is Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley. Wade appears to be back in top form and ready to stake his claim as the best player in the game. The brash Beasley is not shy about getting his, and should have no trouble taking as many shots as he feels like.

Which leaves Marion the odd man out once again; the forgotten superstar who does all the little things that help teams win. Like playing hard defense, even if his opponent is a much smaller, quicker point guard or a big, bruising center. Like getting garbage points off offensive rebounds and broken plays that can make the difference between a team getting W and a L. Like posting double-doubles in his sleep (career averages–18.3ppg, 10.1rpg) as well as getting you a couple of steals and blocks. Despite all this, he’s also destined to have his thunder stolen by Flash and BEasy.

On second thought, maybe The Enigma isn’t a good enough nickname either. How about The Invisible Man?

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