I’m a known Shawn Marion supporter. I’m more than I supporter; I own a timeshare on Marion Island, jet-ski in Matrix Bay, and shop at the quaint I-Wish-Kerr-Never-Traded-Him farmer’s market on Sunday mornings.
When asked, “Who is your favorite Phoenix Sun?”, he is easily my answer.
Not because he won the MVP (he didn’t), not because he made All-NBA Defensive teams (amazingly he didn’t), not because he made All-NBA Teams (two 3rd teams, ’04-’05 and ’05-’06). Because, without the efforts of Shawn Marion, the Seven Seconds or Less era doesn’t happen. Because he hustled. Because he made the flashy fast-break slam dunk, retrieved the vital rebound, or made the big steal. Because of his versatility. Because he wasn’t the superstar of the team. Because he wasn’t the head or heart of the team; he was the soul. He made the team go.
Marion found himself to be the third, fourth, and sometimes fifth wheel to quite the list of NBA royalty throughout his career: Nash, Stoudemire, Kidd, Dirk, LeBron, and D Wade to name some. He didn’t always light up the box score with scoring, but he always lit up the box score. The impact he had on a game was unique. Maybe that’s just the kind of player I enjoy watching: the junkyard dog.
It’s time he gets his due.
Zona Sports wrote a fantastic article on Bright Side stating the case for Marion to not only be inducted in the Suns Ring of Honor (how the hell has this not happened yet?!) but to be in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. I don’t need to go through all of the statistics, the accomplishments, and the case for The Matrix that are woven throughout that piece. It amazes we that, in Phoenix Suns history, Marion is in the top 3 in eight different statistical categories.
But how does Shawn Marion feel about all of this?
Michael Lee of The Athletic recently made the case that Marion has been snubbed as well. He interviewed the man who is the only player in NBA history to post at least 17,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 1,500 steals, 1,000 blocks and 500 three-pointers in his career. In doing so, Marion revealed his thoughts on his shot, playing small ball, whether or not he should’ve made an All-NBA Defensive Team, how close was Phoenix to winning it all, and if he should be in the Hall.
Marion on His Shot
Oh, Marion’s jumper.
It is unconventional, isn’t it? If I am teaching a young kid how to shoot, I’m certainly not showing them the following video as a point of inspiration and/or instruction:
The infamous Marion jumper has been ranked with some of the ugliest shots in the history of the game. If you use Marion on NBA2k, it’s almost certainly a brick (that is one fast release).
So what does Shawn think?
“It’s really sad, because everybody used to make a big issue about my shot as certain points of my career. I’m like, ‘Why are you talking about my shot? That’s not important. I make shots. I get buckets,’ I was averaging 22 and 12, or something crazy. Like, why are you talking about my shot? Why aren’t you talking about the double-doubles I’m putting up?”
He’s not wrong there. Marion logged 427 regular-season double-doubles in his career, posting a career-high 60 in the ’05-’06 campaign.
“Why aren’t you talking about I’m leading the league, or second in the league in steals? I’m top five in rebounding? Why is the focus on what I’m doing on the other side of the floor? Why is that the narrative? Or something everybody is talking about. Because nobody’s release is the same. Nobody ever gave me a legit answer.”
Because it was an ugly shot! Effective, but ugly.
Marion on Playing Small Ball
Shawn Marion wasn’t the biggest guy on the court. Standing a lanky 6-foot-7, you probably wouldn’t think to put him at power forward, especially in the era in which he played. But that is what Mike D’Antoni chose to do in 2004, seeing the athleticism, mobility, and defensive prowess The Matrix possessed.
In Lee’s article, Marion stated, “When they told me they was going to go small ball, I wasn’t too excited about it. A power forward was the most dominant position in the league at the time, so I really have to guard these big guys and I’m light. I was not very excited about it...I wasn’t a big guy. I had to guard centers as well, but I was able to do it. And I played at such a high level and it helped us prevail.”
I wouldn’t be thrilled, either. But in order for your team to be successful, you must sacrifice of yourself. And Shawn did just that.
The skill set that Marion had was truly unique, and it has become the blueprint in the NBA on how to stop the barrage of three-point heavy offenses. Versatility and length. A player who can switch on screens and be effective on defense.
Marion was ahead of his time.
Marion on Defense and Recognition
How did this guy the never make an All-NBA Defensive team?
The ’05-’06 season, the year in which Amare Stoudemire was sidelined with microfracture knee surgery, saw his best chance. He averaged 11.8 rebounds-per-game (3rd in the NBA) and 2.0 steals-per-game (5th in the NBA). He was beat out that season by Bruce Bowen, Andrei Kirilenko, Ron Artest, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett. I wonder how many of them guarded all five positions that season.
“I’m not knocking, but how do you justify giving Draymond Green, defensive player of the year? Same thing. Different era, same thing. I guarded way more people than he did. It’s easy to play small ball now and guard people. It’s not hard now,” adding, “How many people actually play defense now?”.
It’s not hard if you possess The Matrix’s skill set. GM’s salivate over players with his potential. Few even come close to emulating Marion’s abilities. His dedication on the defensive side of the floor should have been recognized. But it never was.
“I never made an all-defensive team. I never was defensive player of the year, which I should have been, couple years, honestly. Defensive player of the year, possibly, I should’ve been, maybe once or twice in my career. But I didn’t get that. All defensive team? I definitely should’ve been all-defensive team, four or five years, easily. Why is that?”
Marion on Why Phoenix Didn’t Win a ‘Chip
We talked about it in depth on the Suns JAM Session ’05-’06 Forgotten Squads podcast: D’Antoni wore the team out. The style of play, coupled with using only seven guys to run it, it is the primary reason the Suns never made it to the promised land. Heck, they didn’t even make the NBA Finals due to self-inflicted fatigue.
“I’m telling you from a player standpoint, from a basketball standpoint, of somebody that knows the game and experienced it; you’re only going to go as far as your bench takes you. Look at your history. Ain’t no team won a championship on seven guys.”
Marion on His Legacy
Few players carry such an odd career arc as Shawn Marion. Never the Batman, and few times the Robin, he has had a career of being the Alfred. He is the guy behind the heroes, ensuring they are set up for success and never exposed. He put forth the effort, the statistics, and the career longevity. He did so in a selfless manner.
Should Shawn Marion be inducted into the Hall?
“I think the legacy I left for the game is there. But who is it to decide? Who is making the decisions? What do they base it off of? If you look at all the numbers, to me, I should be a shoo-in. Should I not?” he stated to Michael Lee.
“What am I supposed to do? What am I not supposed to do? It’s out of my control. I know it’s a political thing. It’s a lot more other stuff going on. But certain things, you earn that. I earned that.”
Yes, Shawn, you did.
We’ve been talking about putting a statue out in front of Talking Stick Resort Arena following it’s renovation. Should it be Barkley? How about Nash? Perhaps Al McCoy?
My vote? Marion.
Clearly I am biased and alone in this line of thinking. Most are afraid of ‘vacation ownership’, and timeshares. But here on Marion Island, the Most-Win-Shares-in-Suns-History Luau is a helluva good time.
Stop on by sometime.