Shawn Marion, aka The Matrix and dude with a funky release, played his last NBA game five years ago in Cleveland. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were his teammates and although the Cavs went to the NBA Finals that year, Marion didn’t play one minute against the Warriors, who eventually won the series in 6.
Marion only played in 6 playoff games in 2015 for 25 minutes. He only made one shot. It was the end of the line for the Illinois native who was a lottery pick in 1999. He was drafted by the Phoenix Suns and played 16 years in the NBA. Marion was athletic, long, an open shot maker, and quick to the rim. Not to mention a shut-down defender.
He was a natural fit for Mike D’Antoni’s shoot it or move it offense, and Steve Nash’s dribbling genius made it possible for Marion to achieve. He was an All-Star four times, had four years in a row with offensive ratings of 116, 118, 118, 113. Defensively he was dominant. His four All-Star years, he averaged a defensive rating of 99.
But all anyone wanted to talk about was Shawn Marion’s shot. It was strange in a quirky way. But effective. He had six seasons shooting over 50%. Five years in a row, he averaged 19.1 ppg, 21.2 ppg, 19.0 ppg, 19.4 ppg, and 21.8 ppg. Five seasons, he averaged over 20.0 PER.
Marion would have to be deaf to not hear the outrage about him having the ugliest shot in the NBA.
“Why are you talking about my shot. That’s not important. I make shots. I get buckets…Why aren’t you talking about the double-doubles I’m putting up?”
(Because we shallow like that. We like the beautiful game. )
Marion’s length and athleticism, and his hunger made him a force on the boards. The 6-7 wing averaged 10 rebounds or more five times. Phil Jackson was enamored. When he first came to Los Angeles in 1999 Jackson wanted the Lakers to trade Kobe Bryant to Phoenix for Marion but Dr. Buss wasn’t having it. Jackson saw in Marion a Scottie Pippen-lite kind of player. While Marion didn’t have Pippen’s ball-handling skills, his game was similar, and as a bonus, he wasn’t as reserved. Marion was unique.
Shawn Marion was All-NBA twice. He finished in the top-10 of MVP voting in 2006. He’s an NBA champion. A third option on the dynamic 7 Seconds or Less Suns team, the spotlight eluded him. But while Nash and Stoudamire got all the credit, it was Marion who defended the wing and was the X-factor. His fast-break dunks were scintillating. He was active in the paint taking the pressure off of Stoudamire. No, he was never the Suns best player. But he was their most important player. Nash and Stoudamire needed Shawn Marion. Versatility was his talent.
He’s the only NBA player with 17,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 1,500 steals, 1,000 blocks, and 500 three-pointers.
Mike D’Antoni decided to go small when the league was very big and made Marion a power forward. It worked. But the problem was D’Antoni didn’t utilize his bench, and it wore the starters out. Particularly with how fast the Suns played for 82 games. The Suns never had depth which doomed them in the playoffs. It didn’t help that Amare Stoudamire and Boris Diaw left the bench during a scrum against the Spurs and were suspended for a critical game 5 that cost them a chance at the title.
When Shawn Marion was traded from Phoenix to Miami, he heard about it while hosting a Super Bowl party. He had asked for a trade before the season, so it wasn’t a shock. It was the timing. A couple of years later, Marion signed a free agent deal with Dallas where he played 361 games and was a starter on an NBA title team. Marion started 103 playoff games in his NBA career.
As he reflected on his career with Michael Lee (The Athletic), Marion questioned never being honored for his defense and he threw some Draymond Green shade. “How do you justify giving Draymond Green defensive player of the year?…I guarded way more people than he did. It’s easy to play small ball now and guard people. It’s not hard now. How many people actually play defense now? I never made an all-defensive team. I never was defensive player of the year, which I should have been. “
As for his Hall of Fame credentials Marion justified his induction. “If you look at the numbers, to me, I should be a shoo-in. Should I not?”
Basketball Reference agrees. They put Marion’s odds at the Hall of Fame at 75%.