Stephon Marbury doc is a must-watch for hoops fans
Editor’s note: The following contains some spoilers but recommends you watch the Stephon Marbury biopic “A Kid From Coney Island.”
In one way, Stephon Marbury’s time with the Phoenix Suns was the same as his time with the Timberwolves, was the same as his time with the Nets and was the same as his stint with the Knicks.
That is to say he took a lot of blame at each of his four major NBA stops.
For the average basketball fan, maybe Marbury’s career narrative stopped there, in less-than-pristine condition.
It didn’t, but in his biopic, “A Kid From Coney Island,” which released on digital platforms this week, the former NBA point guard has a platform to tell his fascinating story that spans two continents, a spiritual awakening and many controversies.
It’s a chronological look starting with his infamous come-up as part of a large basketball family in New York City.
In high school, Marbury and Allen Iverson were the constant faces of basketball culture magazines, and their auras through their early NBA careers clashed with NBA commissioner David Stern’s dress-code-enforcing league.
Individually, Marbury’s rise as a prospect alongside street legends like God Shammgod formed a natural marriage with New York rappers like Cam’Ron and Fat Joe, both of whom are interviewed about Marbury in the film.
The film’s happiest moment — Marbury getting drafted and his entire family feeling the weight lifting off their shoulders — was followed by struggle.
Marbury forced his way out of his first team, the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Stops in New Jersey and Phoenix ended as Marbury struggled to express himself. As Stephen A. Smith, who covered a young Marbury, explained, the optics oscillated between him looking like he didn’t care or cared too much.
The documentary glosses over most of Marbury’s 2001-04 career with the Suns, which included an All-Star berth and a playoff appearance alongside Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion. It also doesn’t mention his 2002 extreme DUI charge in Scottsdale.
“Do you know how Arizona, how Phoenix did Steph?” Fat Joe explains in the film. “He woke up and they was like, ‘Yo, get your stuff.’ He was the leader of Phoenix. ‘Get your stuff. You’re going to the Knicks.’
“He was like, ‘Aight …” But the way they walked him out was like crackhead (expletive). ‘Yo, take your family, get out of here!'”
Marbury’s career with the Knicks and the pressure-cooker environment playing at home ended in an ugly way. A breaking point came when he played in a 2009 game against the Suns while his father was admitted to the hospital with chest pains and died before the game ended. That is when, his family members said, Marbury went down a dark hole.
Marbury doesn’t address any of his NBA exits in the film that’s produced by Forest Whitaker and NBA star Kevin Durant, among others.
The point guard doesn’t appear as a commentator until the documentary reaches his post-NBA life — and after he wept and swallowed Vaseline during a July 2009 live-stream broadcast.
Then, the redemption story of sorts begins.
Marbury felt the culture shock in China but found himself spiritually. He found joy in basketball, too, winning three titles with the Beijing Ducks and appearing for three other teams from 2010-18.
Statues were erected. A play about Marbury that included him in the cast was created. A museum features his entire basketball career, including his running three-point bank shot for the Suns that stunned the No. 1-seeded San Antonio Spurs in the opening playoff game of the 2002-03 season.
“A Kid From Coney Island”, which is directed by Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah, does well delving into Marbury’s mistakes and misconceptions about what happened at some of his NBA stops. He doesn’t pass blame, and in-depth interviews with his immediately family make it clear that the demons he faced stemmed from chasing the success in basketball that had gotten him out of the projects.
That his NBA career arc included varying bitter endings with all of his teams is a shame.
Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, Isiah Thomas and Russell Westbrook are the only other players who have averaged better than 19 points and seven assists per game for an entire career.
The ending to the film, which I’ll leave you to watch, beautifully ends where it began: in New York, with Marbury’s emotions spilling out while looking right into the face of the challenges he faced and conquered.