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MavKikiNYC
04-15-2006, 08:10 PM
April 16, 2006
Why Isn't This Man More Famous?

By LIZ ROBBINS (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/r/liz_robbins/index.html?inline=nyt-per)

Shawn Marion is a paradox in motion.

He defies gravity with his jumping-jack flashes, but does not showboat. He is modest and team-oriented, but craves individual recognition for exploits his teammates can plainly see.

"He's so unique, there's nobody in the league who does what he does," Suns (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/sports/probasketball/nationalbasketballassociation/phoenixsuns/index.html?inline=nyt-org) point guard Steve Nash said of Marion, the veteran Phoenix forward. "His ability to guard different people, block shots, steal the ball, rebound.

A lot of his scoring comes off quick cuts, and he's to the rim before anyone sees him."

In leading Phoenix with averages of 21.5 points and 11.9 rebounds while Amare Stoudemire has been injured, and often guarding the opposing team's best player, Marion has been a crucial part of the Suns' drive to the Pacific Division title for the second straight season.

And he is baffled as to why he is not a bigger player on the national endorsement scene. He would like to be considered for N.B.A. defensive player of the year, or even the Most Valuable Player award, but instead feels like the third wheel on his team behind Nash and Stoudemire.

"I just want to be acknowledged as much as everyone else," Marion said in a recent interview after a practice in Phoenix. "It's Steve this, Amare that. Not taking anything away from those guys — they're my teammates, I respect them and I love them to death — but I was doing what I was doing before they got there."

He is a three-time All-Star, a 2004 Olympian who has been named again to the national team, a player with a maximum contract ($13.7 million this season). Know this about Marion: he may talk a high-maintenance game, but he plays a low-maintenance one — with a smile.

"Basically, Shawn's a great guy and he wants what's best for the team, and eventually he'll do what's right," said Mike D'Antoni, the Suns' coach and president.

Marion said: "It's time to win a championship. When you win, everyone is praised. I got my money, I'm secure. But at the same time, I wouldn't mind having a few more endorsements on the side, just to put my face out there a little more."

Marion has one local endorsement deal, with the Room Store in Phoenix, which offered him furnishings for his condominium that far surpassed his expectations.

Marion had one Nike commercial broadcast nationally for two weeks in December. In the spot, he agrees to play pickup with average guys in the gym. Afterward, he reveals he was playing with a weighted vest.

At a time when few players command national endorsements and seven-figure shoe deals, Marion, two marketing executives said, is at a disadvantage by being on a team that has not been in a championship game.

Doug Shabelman, senior vice president at Burns Entertainment and Sports Marketing, a company based in Evanston, Ill., said: "Is there anything that stands out about Shawn Marion? No, other than his being a great player, a good role model and having had a successful career.

"But there are a lot of players who have had that success and contribute to their teams, but don't have major notoriety."

Shabelman said that with more actors vying for national sponsorships, the opportunities are no longer as prevalent for professional athletes.

Nova Lanktree, executive vice president of player marketing at CSMG in Chicago, said that landing endorsements is "not as simple as saying, 'I'm a great player.'

"You have to have something in your personality, in your look; you have to have the whole package," she said.

Marion is friendly, but not dynamic. He is protective about his private life. The first home he bought as a rookie (the Suns made him the No. 9 overall draft pick in 1999) is in a subdued development near Scottsdale.

While some N.B.A. stars have courts built into their mansions, Marion has a basketball hoop in the short driveway leading to his three-car garage, which houses a portion of his collection of white cars: a Hummer, a Porsche Cayenne and a Dodge Magnum.

Pictures line some walls: snapshots of him playing along with framed trading card sets, many sent by fans in homemade collages. All are hung at his 6-foot-7 eye level.

Marion is most proud of owning every Jordan sneaker since 1984, many of the models in various colors. He has one pair signed by Jordan, and authenticated with a seal. "It's kind of funny, I see him all the time," Marion said. "I wouldn't feel good to ask him to sign something now."

Marion neglected to mention that he has his own signature shoe from Nike.

He began collecting the Jordan line when he was in high school in Clarksville, Tenn., wanting to follow Jordan to North Carolina. Marion did not qualify academically to apply there and opted instead for Vincennes University, a community college in Indiana.

Marion was named national junior-college player of the year in his second season at Vincennes. He then chose Nevada-Las Vegas, where he played one season.

"I told him that wasn't really my choice for him to go there," said Dan Sparks, Marion's coach at Vincennes. "I think he could have gone to programs where he could have gotten more exposure."

Marion's mother, Elaine, moved from Tennessee to Las Vegas, where she still lives, as does his twin sister, Shawnette. ("I'm a minute older," he said.) Marion has two other younger sisters.

"I'm very family-oriented; I love my family to death," he said.

His mother reared him. In discussing his father, Marion said he had recently been released from prison, and refused to elaborate. In his life, Marion has surrounded himself with strong women, including his girlfriend of three years, Erika Jones.

Marion's steadiness in his life and in his game may hurt his marketability, Lanktree and Shabelman said.

But Marion has one of the most marketable nicknames in the league, the Matrix, bestowed by the TNT analyst Kenny Smith, an homage to the other worldly motion of the lead character in the science-fiction movie series.

"Sometimes I do feel like I'm moving way faster than everybody else," Marion said.

He collects statistics that quickly, too, compiling double figures in points and rebounds in 59 games. Despite his height, he is the league's third-leading rebounder, behind Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard.

"When you talk about Phoenix, you certainly talk about Marion," Portland Coach Nate McMillan said. "He really is the guy that allows them to play the style of basketball they play."

Marion seemed resentful about critics pointing to his unconventional shot (he lowers his arms before flinging the ball with a perfect follow-through) instead of talking about his team-best 52.1 shooting percentage. As a lithe small forward playing power forward, he wishes the organization would tout his defense more.

"For me not to get no respect for guarding 4's, that's unrealistic," Marion said, referring to other power forwards. "I'm 6-7, 225 pounds, guarding guys four, five inches taller than me. That's not even fair at all."

When the season started, Marion was even dismayed that his likeness did not appear among the team store's three-foot bobblehead dolls, along with Nash's and Stoudemire's.

"Amare was injured all year; Steve was the catalyst last year and this year, too," said Marion's agent, Dan Fegan. "But I think this is the year the organization should champion Shawn."

Marion said that the team does not run plays for him, then said that he is best at moving without the ball. "I didn't have plays run for me in college, either," he said.

D'Antoni knows that calling plays for Marion can hinder his instinctive game.

"Not everyone can have plays called for him and not everyone can take the last shot," D'Antoni said.

"That's where it stops," D'Antoni added. "When you're a max player, the first player picked for the U.S. team and an All-Star, there's not a whole lot else. Whether Nike comes and gives him the big shoe contract, that's beyond our control. I just know he's a great, great player. Obviously, us winning a championship would be enough for everybody."

But Marion enters the playoffs striving for more.

MavKikiNYC
04-15-2006, 08:18 PM
Very interesting dynamic on that team. Amare and his max contract, and.....will he ever play again?

Joe Johnson leaves because he doesn't want to play 3rd or 4th fiddle behind Amare, Nash and whoever else.

Matrix feels like he's short-changed in terms of recognition because of that given to Amare, Nash, etc.

Lack of charisma? Lack of.......something.

kg_veteran
04-15-2006, 08:34 PM
Marion has always been an interesting character. He's jealous of the credit Nash receives for the team's success, yet always tries to mask that jealousy by saying he respects Steve, etc.

Hard to tell if it's a serious issue for them or not. I do get a kick out of him claiming they don't run plays for him with the FGAs he gets. Whether it's a play for him or not, their system clearly is designed to help him get shots.

As for defensive player of the year, nobody playing for a bad defensive team like the Suns is going to win that award.

As for MVP, come on. He's getting token recognition now. What more does he want? Does he really think he's the MVP of the league?

Wait, who am I kidding...I'm sure he does.

nashtymavsfan13
04-15-2006, 09:43 PM
He's a very good all around player, and is underrated a gets little recognition for what he does. I agree with him that Nash and Amare get way too much more recognition than him. But he's no MVP, and I don't think he could carry a team by himself, that's why he gets little recognition. The Suns did nothing before Nash and Amare came, what does that tell you?

Hitman
04-15-2006, 09:53 PM
KG -- You are right. It is token MVP recognition. You can't play with the reigning MVP who is considered a frontrunner for the award this year, yet your team has only won 50 games, and still be considered a legit MVP candidate.

The problem with Marion is -- with 2 minutes left in a critical slow it down playoff game -- is Shawn Marion the guy you want to pin your hopes to?

Not for me.

Definitely NOT the MVP.

u2sarajevo
04-15-2006, 10:16 PM
For me not to get no respect So basically he isn't complaining. That's good that he feels respected.

Nash13
04-15-2006, 11:41 PM
I'm not trying to downplay his game, but his stats are a hoax. In the 6 or 7 years he's been there, he's never had a good frontcourt. I mean, there's a reason why he has to guard opponent's best frontcourt player. Honestly, if Dirk/Damp/Diop were replaced with Thomas/Diaw/Grant, i'm pretty sure Howard would average 8-10rpg. He can't really create his own shot. And i do remember him getting completely shut out against the Spurs last year in the WCF.

TripleDipping
04-16-2006, 12:26 PM
So basically he isn't complaining. That's good that he feels respected.

LOL... I was thinking about the same thing.

Damn those double negatives...

jayC
04-16-2006, 03:47 PM
The Suns won fifty games with Marbury and Amare two years prior to Nash coming to Phoenix.

Everyone wants some type of esteem. Hey the national media has picked up his MVP campaign a little. I haven't heard much prior to this season. The fact remains as he is a top fifteen player and an all nba candidate (a third teamer that is.)

Drbio
04-16-2006, 09:51 PM
Marion can suck it.

jayC
04-17-2006, 10:26 AM
He is no longer the Dirk killa he was in the past. Dirk is the Marion killa.

V2M
04-17-2006, 10:50 AM
He is no longer the Dirk killa he was in the past. Dirk is the Marion killa.
I don't think he was ever a Dirk killa in the first place. True Dirk did struggle against him a game or two in the past but it ain't like Dirk never torched him!

Matter of fact, I chuckle every time I hear that Dirk has now figured out a way to play against smaller defenders! He's been torching every damn defender for 6 or 7 straight years now!! He's always scored against the TDs, KGs & Wallaces of the world and he certainly has always scored against the Bowens & Artests of the world. That don't mean he can't have an off-day or an off-series like everyone else!

Folks, Dirk's been an offensive juggernaut who knows how to play well within the system for years now!

Thespiralgoeson
04-17-2006, 01:20 PM
I don't think he was ever a Dirk killa in the first place. True Dirk did struggle against him a game or two in the past but it ain't like Dirk never torched him!

Matter of fact, I chuckle every time I hear that Dirk has now figured out a way to play against smaller defenders! He's been torching every damn defender for 6 or 7 straight years now!! He's always scored against the TDs, KGs & Wallaces of the world and he certainly has always scored against the Bowens & Artests of the world. That don't mean he can't have an off-day or an off-series like everyone else!

Folks, Dirk's been an offensive juggernaut who knows how to play well within the system for years now!

Word.