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Avoiding the Hall Of Fame the Starbury Way – Did You Remember Stephon Marbury is #22 in Career Assists?

As Stephon Marbury’s tenure with the New York Knicks turn into a post-modern retelling of “The Last Days of Pompeii,” it might be time to look back at what Starbury used to be before his ego and mouth got in the way and how he’s cleverly dodged the hall of fame.

Did you know that Marbury is 22nd in the NBA for career assists? Depending on the exact team, there are approximately 60-65 games left in the season. If Marbury were traded or cut and signed with another team, if he averaged a meager 3 assists per game for 60 games, he’d jump up to 19th place all time and be one assist behind Derek Harper for 18th.

Actually, Marbury really should have cracked the top 20 a year or two ago. Between a combination of nagging injuries and massive personality conflicts with his coaches, Marbury’s assists have dropped off ever since he crossed paths with Larry Brown. Let’s face it, everybody but then-GM Isiah Thomas knew that Starbury and Brown weren’t going to get on well. Isiah paid the price for it, eventually starting the now-standard “bench Marbury” policy last year. Still, from the ’96-’97 season to the ’04-’05 season, 7.6 assists per game was his low point. That’s a pretty healthy run.

There is a sad element to Marbury’s story. I was frequently in the Knicks locker room when he was traded there. He genuinely seemed overwhelmed with joy at joining the beloved team of his childhood. He genuinely seemed ready to do whatever it took to make sure he finished his career there. There was criticism that he dominated the ball too much in the 4th quarter, but his original tendencies were to spend more of the first quarter distributing and then start calling his number more. The problem with those squads being that Marbury was by far the most capable Knick, in terms of creating his own shot. His more than healthy ego, combined with that tendency to take more shots as the game wore on didn’t endear him to his teammates. That was obvious enough to see in the locker room. Marbury talked to reporters, not teammates. Kurt Thomas was glue guy in that locker room and there was a time or two when you weren’t so sure Kurt wasn’t thinking about slapping Marbury around a little bit.

The ego grew and as Marbury became more comfortable with the Knicks his Starbury side started acting out more, reaching its pinnacle (thus far) into refusing to play when the Knicks only had 7 players available and branding Marbury with a cancer label he’ll be hard-pressed to shake.

Marbury hasn’t turned 32 quite yet. He’s already wasted at least a season pouting and may have sulked himself out of the league. If he could have just sucked it up a little, he should be knocking on the door of top-15 all-time for assists, nipping at Steve Nash’s career heels and with a top-10 all-time finish not completely ridiculous if he finished his career on the right teams.

Instead, we don’t know if the Knicks will really cut Marbury loose this year or if this season will be a complete loss. If he is cut loose, we don’t know if another NBA team will be willing to take a chance on him (normally, there’s always somebody willing to try out an ex-all-star for league minimum) or if Marbury will make good on his threats to leave the country and attempt to play in Italy.

The Basketball Hall of Fame has traditionally put some emphasis on titles, but when you start having career numbers land in the top 15, you start seeing a legitimate argument for inclusion. Marbury could have easily been in that statistical realm, but even if he were able to necessitate his career and get 3-4 good years in to crack that hallowed air, would anyone vote him into the Hall after his recent hi-jinks?

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