Stephon Marbury had one of the craziest NBA runs of anyone from his 1996 NBA draft class. He jumped from team to team, publicly airing his grievances along the way. With the struggling Knicks, Marbury fell into the arms of a welcoming fan base. Then he burned more bridges across a sprawling 24-hour live-stream rant, exiting the NBA shortly after.
Marbury’s career blossomed in China as he found a sense of peace he never had in the NBA. The Beijing Ducks even built a statue in his honor. As Marbury resided overseas, he reconnected to NBA personalities and fans. This helped him reflect on the difficult early years of his basketball career, particularly his acrimonious end with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Stephon Marbury moved from Milwaukee to Minnesota
Marbury first burst onto the scene as Travis Best’s replacement at point guard for Georgia Tech, the Baltimore Sun reports. He developed something of a rivalry with Georgetown’s Allen Iverson while bonding with 1995 NBA draft pick Kevin Garnett. Talking over the phone, Marbury picked Garnett’s brain on his experiences going straight from high school to the NBA.
Marbury was drafted first by the Milwaukee Bucks as the fourth overall pick in 1996. He was a headline pick in one of the greatest draft classes of all time. Shareef Abdur-Rahim wrote in The Player’s Tribune that Marbury was on equal footing with future superstars like Kobe, Iverson, Steve Nash, and Ray Allen.
The Bucks picked Marbury and immediately traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Allen. Garnett could barely contain his excitement that his friend landed with his own organization. The two immediately set the NBA on fire as the most dynamic duo in the game. It felt too good to be true — probably because it was.
Why Marbury requested a trade from Minnesota
Garnett and Marbury were close friends throughout their short time together. It blindsided Garnett when his point guard pal suddenly went on a public push for a trade. Marbury told Complex years after the fact that his issues were mostly related to the difficulties of living in frigid Minneapolis.
“I love Minnesota. I love playing basketball here,” he recounted to Complex. “But I don’t wanna spend seven more years of my life living here.” He praised the fans, praised his teammates, but made it absolutely clear he wanted to leave. The organization offered him a massive contract, yet he still declined.
In part, as ESPN reports, it may have been due to acrimony over Garnett’s massive $126 million offer compared to Marbury’s $71 million. The latter’s game was similar to Iverson’s, who headlined the Philadelphia 76ers on his own. So Marbury got exactly what he wanted: a spot closer to home, with the New Jersey Nets. It broke Garnett’s heart, and the two have never quite reconciled.
Marbury reflects on this fraught time in his career
Marbury never found what he was looking for in the NBA. Instead, it was in Beijing, as a three-time CBA champion, that Marbury found his place in the game. He told the New Yorker, in a few words, why he fits in so well there. “[Chinese culture] is about relationships. It’s pretty cool, and I’ve established that.”
He also spoke on how his connection to the CBA community and China as a whole even led to turning down an NBA offer. “I’d rather have my peace of mind than have all of that money that I was making,” Marbury said. “Because I wasn’t happy. And then they was getting ready to build the statue. I was, like, How do you leave that?”
Marbury simply couldn’t get with the culture of the NBA. He was often seen as a toxic figure in the press, due to his insistence on speaking out. He needed a full reset, and apparently the NBA was never going to allow him to become the type of player — and person — he wanted to be.