I couldn’t find Stephon Marbury. I looked at Madison Square Garden. I went to the top of the Empire State Building and surveyed the city. I strolled through Central Park. I took the subway up and down Manhattan, and a ferry over to Liberty Island.
Stephon Marbury was eventually found and made up with his coach, Isiah Thomas. (NBAE Photos)
I even went to Tom’s Restuarant (aka “Tom’s Diner” from the Suzanne Vega song; aka “Monk’s” from Seinfeld Fame) in search of the Knicks guard this past Wednesday after he went AWOL, leaving his team in Phoenix Tuesday to return home to the Big Apple. But, like the local media here that staked out his driveway, I had no luck.
Okay, I wasn’t really looking for “Starbury,” but with a long ride back to JFK this morning, I thought I’d share some thoughts while blogging from the backseat of my taxi.
I may not have run into Marbury, a former Suns guard I’m sure you recall, during my trip to NYC for a Sports Media & Technology conference, he was all over the place. There he was on the front (and back) page of the Daily News with articles titled “Warbury” and “Bizarrebury.” There went his name across one of the giant scrolling news tickers on Broadway, with the headline “Knicks Fine Marbury $180,000.” And there he was screaming on one of the enormous digital screens high above Times Square. I couldn’t hear him over all the honks and sirens, of course, but I could read his lips and he was not happy.
Ironically, when I first hit the Square on Monday night on a mission to find “7 shirts for $10,” I noticed a two-sided billboard advertising Knicks tix with photos of Zach Randolph, Eddie Curry, David Lee and someone else I can’t recall at 7 am (5 am Phx time), but someone who was most definitely not Marbury. I was surprised at the time that the pride of Coney Island wasn’t featured front and center, but now maybe we know why.
The rumor going around here is that the Knicks are going to try to buy out his contract, and that Isiah Thomas’ decision to bench Marbury was the first step. It was also apparently the last straw for Marbury, whose alleged outburst on the team charter to Phoenix Monday night after learning of his benching, included threats to dish dirt on his coach.
I have to admit, I actually felt sorry for Stephon. At least a little. Not to try and justify his bolting on his team, of course. And it’s hard to feel too sorry for any athlete making $20-plus million a year. But just having known him for a short time while he was with the Suns, I know that his childhood dream was to play for the Knicks. When he found out that the Suns had traded him in January 2004, he was crushed. For a few seconds anyway, until he learned that the trade would send him back to his hometown to play in the Garden.
I also remember interviewing him in his Paradise Valley home just a few months before that for a cover story I was penning for HOOP, and how he talked all about Thomas, his basketball idol growing up.
Marbury’s homecoming hasn’t quite been the storybook that he imagined, and from the sounds of the big city media, could end up just another chapter in his career. A chapter that may be within pages of being over [Ed's Note: Marbury rejoined his team and was photographed shaking hands with Thomas on Wednesday night].
Meanwhile, as I return home to rejoin my Suns.com teammates, I can’t help but wonder what condition the Suns would be in today had they not made the trade with New York. A trade that I was shocked and disappointed by at the time. Of course, I’m not the only one who doubted the move, but little did I or anyone else know that it would lead to the signing of Steve Nash and the elevation of the Suns to instant title contenders.
One more random Starbury thought before I move on: I just had a mental flashback of the day Marbury arrived in Phoenix. I had followed and photographed him throughout the day, from his hotel to the arena to his introductory press conference. Although it doesn’t feel like all that long ago that he played in Phx, that specific day feels like ages ago; especially when I think about how he walked into the Suns’ locker room for the first time to meet and shake hands with then-Suns coach… Scott Skiles.
NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
I’ve arrived safely at the airport and still have more than an hour to burn, so thought I’d blog a bit more…
>> I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for Suns jerseys, Tshirts and hats in the crowd when I’m on the road. When I was at Disneyland earlier this year, I saw an assortment of purple and orange gear. But I didn’t see a single Stoudemire, Marion or Nash jersey in New York this week! C’mon people, the Suns are the hottest team in the NBA! Although, New York is in the 40s at night right now, so maybe the jerseys are hiding below the overcoats and sweaters.
>> I couldn’t help but think about Nash as I toured the city. Anyone seen his new Nike spot that’s rolling on YouTube? It’s truly an awesome commercial, showing the two-time MVP at work, playing soccer, tennis, pick-up hoops and even skateboarding through New York WHILE dribbling a ball off the concrete and sides of buildings. I think if I had his bank, I’d want to spend my summers here, too.
>> Passing Chambers Street on the #1 train yesterday brought back memories of Tom Chambers’ monster throwdown over the Knicks’ Mark Jackson, who is now a broadcaster for the Knicks’ YES! network. If you’ve never seen it, TC used Jackson like the Gorilla uses his trampoline.
>> Checking out Madison Square Garden reminded me of Charles Barkley hurdling the scorer’s table to chase after a referree during a Suns visit to NY in ’92-93. Speaking of Chuck, there was a photo of his smiling roundness above my table at Carnegie’s Deli, a famous spot which has framed autographed photos of hundreds of celebrities wallpapering the entire joint. My question is, do the stars bring photos of themselves when they come to eat? I can’t imagine them mailing them to the restaurant afterwards, and you know the place doesn’t have blank photos lying around just in case someone famous walks in. I would have asked my waitress, but I could barely get her to take my order, let along answer any questions. I never did get my iced tea, but the pastrami was good.
>> One final Suns-related story for you… I met up with an old high school friend of mine, who happened to be in New York at the same time, and we went in search of well-known Seinfeld spots around town one day (we’re both big fans). One of the locations we looked up was the “Royal Bakery,” where Jerry and Elaine went to pick up a chocolate Bobka on their way to a dinner party, but ended up settling for a cinnamon Bobka. “Cinnamon takes a back seat to no Bobka.”
So my friend and I were going to go in and order a Bobka and a couple of black & white cookies. “Two races of flavor living side by side.” But after crossing town and Central Park (which, if you’ve never been there, is one HUGE park!) to find the actual bakery used in the classic sitcom, what did we discover? It had been replaced by a new Jenny Craig’s location!
What’s the Suns’ connection, you’re asking? Well, Jenny Craig herself is a minority owner in the Suns’ franchise. If only Jenny had a Bobka in her Menu Planner!