He Should've Been Dracula

This being a League of Psychology and all, it's about high time we got to the subject of Shawn Marion's crippling insecurity. Marion is undervalued, but his non-stop plaints and ever-mounting demands have turned him into an accidental egomaniac. He's driven by the bottomless howl of a wounded, the lack of perspective one sees in cases of stubbed toes or bit tongues. Line up all he's said over the last season: does he really think he deserves to be the Suns' highest-paid player, come hell or high water? Steve Nash gets well below his market value, and giving Amare the max is like dumping virgins in the ocean. Marion may get less high-watt exposure than those two, but that doesn't mean Phoenix has to overcompensate by making him into a behind-the-scenes monarch.

Shawn Marion has been blinded by loneliness. Yet in many ways, he has no one to blame but himself. There is no high-flyer more inconspicuous, no dominant presence more understated, than Marion. His game is self-effacing to a fault, and his instincts on the floor continually push him away from the limelight and into the trenches. Rarely do we see him force a shot, or even look to score when not directed to by the logic of a possession. Perhaps his fragility is what led him to this low-risk line of work; certainly, a man prone to melancholic nerves would do well to avoid game-winning field goal attempts or other lodestars of criticism. And yet one can't help but wonder how it is that, if Marion is so gnawed at by his emotions, he's stayed such a good soldier. Henry's compiled some instances of lapses or petulance, but these are a far cry from attention-getting gestures like tantrums or impulsive offense.

The easy answer is that Marion lacks the skills to act out thus. That's partly the case, but isn't self-deception at the root of all unforgivable basketball? Shawn Marion rarely puts the ball on the floor because his very being won't let him; his recent grotesquerie is in fact tragedy, stemmed from an inability to ever buck the game he loves. If Marion's outrage seems twice what it should be, it's because it combines other-directed aggression with self-loathing. And, to be sure, a good deal of anxiety over the fact that basketball's causing him pain. Marion clearly respects the game; otherwise, he wouldn't be capable of playing with such restraint and selflessness. To have his beloved sport mock him so, forcing him to choose between dignity and devotion . . . it's enough to make a man want to run as far away from his situation, even if it involves the Phoenix Suns.


At 9/26/2007 2:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What? You done lost your mind. "giving Amare the max is like dumping virgins in the ocean" what does it mean? That giving Amare the max is a waste? Or that a dumping virgins in the ocean is a max type action? Or wait, wait i get it, in the ocean, virgins get the max when they are dumped along with Amare. Please do explain.

At 9/26/2007 2:41 PM, Blogger J.E. said...

I, for one, look forward to the day when Marion’s lookin' at the walls / head in hand / cold jonezin’ ...

At 9/26/2007 2:58 PM, Anonymous Nostrada said...

This is the best article ever on Marion, and the single most important point is the one regarding Marion's self loathing. He hates Nash and Amare for not giving up the rock more and D'Antoni for not running plays for him, but he sure as hell hates himself for not being the type of player you run plays for or give the rock to.

He knows that the others are, objectively speaking, making the right decision, but he hates the fact that it is the right decision to make. He knows that, in Atlanta, he'd be the right player to run plays for or give the rock to and this kills him. He's got the Alpha male set of mind, not the Alpha male set of tools on that team, and this eats him inside.

At 9/26/2007 3:45 PM, Blogger goathair said...

It's depressing that this is the worst thing that could possibly happen (barring a Nash injury) to both the Suns and Marion.

At 9/26/2007 4:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An explanation for my fellow anonymous person: as every foresight-lacking polytheist knows, you feed virgins to VOLCANOES, thus dumping virgins in the ocean is a waste.

Apropos of the actual discussion at hand, Marion feeling unloved and wanting to leave would be more disappointing if it wasn't so goddamn fucking typical in today's league. Narcissism is rampant: everyone wants a max deal, everyone wants a clause in their contract dictating that any public mention of the team needs to be prefaced by saying it's "their" team. The only obstacle to Marion's happiness in this particular situation is that he's the third-best player on that team, and on a team where he was the best player, he would simply not win.

At 9/26/2007 5:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pray, how is giving Amare the max a waste? I thought the max was put there specifically for players like Amare?

At 9/26/2007 5:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How in the fuck does Marion get so much blame for (basically) the end of a dynasty which never blossomed? HE WANTS ACTION, FUCKIN' GIVE IT TO 'EM VIETNAM STYLE. I blame Marion for NOTHING.

wv - gdjefsp - God DAMN J.E. Skeets, fixus some Podcasts already.

At 9/26/2007 5:40 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

if you give a volcano virgins, why the vast, indestructible ocean, too?

At 9/26/2007 5:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bethlehem, PLEASE tie us up a post about Baron's place as well. Marion's reasonable selfish/selflessness leads to the end of a failed monstrosity. Baron? He kills a phantom glimmer with his scythe of reality.

At 9/26/2007 5:51 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

There is irony in that the discussion of a post about Marion is focusing on Amare and virgins.

Anyway, yeah, Suns should trade him. After all, it's not like Marion is the only guy who plays defense on the team or nothing.

The Suns wouldn't trade him unless Marion forces their hands by sulking. Marion is not going to opt out, either - he's not going to get as large a contract as a free agent (even the Magic think he's overpaid), so it makes sense for him to keep the contract intact. But he obviously wants to get traded, and sadly, he probably will get his wish.

Some might suggest trading him for another insecured, whiny, even more overpaid SF - Kirilenko. But the Suns probably won't want his contract back.

That brings up an interesting option... the Kings could offer Artest. Do the Suns become better with Artest on the team? Tougher, maybe....

At 9/26/2007 5:51 PM, Blogger ForEvers Burns said...

Shoals, thank you for making easily the most insightful analysis on Marion I’ve yet read.

That Marion experiences a near-crushing insecurity about his game is obvious to me in the way he plays (as Shoals characterized him) and the way he describes his own game. See the following chat (from October 2005) and search “form” to see what I’m saying. This isn’t a case of a narcissistic player wanting his propers.


A fan, first validating Marion for his solid shoot, inquires about the origin of his unusual shooting form. Marion is so threatened by the subject of the question that he disregards its content entirely, defensively stating that his technique is fine and chiding the questioner for criticizing him (which he never did). This is not below average self-confidence manifesting itself, Marion’s insecurity about how others regard him lead him to distort reality, reinforcing his own self-doubts.

Like anyone who regularly experiences intense emotional responses and questions his own self-worth, Marion seems to desperately seek validation. To me, he demands a trade because he can’t sit with that anxiety that could come from a combination of sources (some of which he’s mentioned and some of which Shoals enumerated).

When some people can’t handle their own emotions, they often externalize them so that they force others to acknowledge them, often at great personal cost if not done carefully. This is the essence of the trade demand. He’s trying to force the Suns to declare his importance to them. And, as is often case when people act impulsively to manage their own anxiety, he sets himself up for an experience (like being refused a contract extension or being traded for less than his true value or being told by management to shut up) that will only wind up invalidating him further.

At 9/26/2007 7:03 PM, Anonymous badly drawn boykins said...

Here's what I don't get - Marion's discontent has been pretty well reported over the past couple of years. Everyone knew Nash's "chemistry problems" comment was directed at Marion for the most part. So why now?

Nash knows that Marion's the safety valve that lets the Suns be the Suns, so you'd think he'd be reaching out to Marion over the summer between his pickup soccer games. Marion should know that most teams are done moving pieces until midseason (and he also knows what life was like with Marbury running point or Skiles on the bench).

The problem is, he does know how much he's worth, and it's a fucking lot. It's just that he wants to be with someone who really values him, even though he's really better off with the filandering husband who cheats on him every now and then.

At 9/26/2007 7:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy shit! David Friedman just rocked the mufuckin' mic about the same shit over at 20 Second Timeout.

My fave part:
"The Marion story flies in the face of two pieces of "conventional wisdom" that the mainstream media touts: 1) Everyone in the NBA would love to play with Steve Nash and would accept less money to do so; 2) Nobody in the NBA wants to play with Kobe Bryant."

At 9/26/2007 7:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BADDBOYNKINS: How do you win a championship in marriage? It definitely ain't a kid.

At 9/26/2007 9:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think BDBoykin hit on something...though this is the way i see the whole marion situation. bear with me on this...

You date a girl, & after a while you become comfortable with each other. Time passes and you start going through the motions & become complacent. She packs on a few lbs, yet you still find her attractive. She just as hot as when you first met.

Some new girl grabs your attention and you begin wondering what it would be like to be with her. After much agonizing & heartache you break up w/ your girl. You end up with the new chick. a few months pass and you see your ex...only to see she has dropped 20lbs and is doing better than ever. Your new girl is hot, but you don't connect like you did with the ex and you realize that you threw away the best thing you had just to be in a different/new situation.

Ultimately i see Marion feeling like he can get a hotter chick (more money)but throwing away the best thing he's got.

At 9/27/2007 12:14 AM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Anon above: I think in Badly Drawn Boykins' example, Marion is not the guy who thinks he can get a hotter chick... Nash is. Marion is the hot chich he's letting go, by not reaching out to him when he's ego needs a little stroking. But maybe BDB can confirm if I read that right?

Anyone, yes, I can see how this might be about ego needed to be stroked. Same as AK47. But I think no NBA player gets to where Marion is without thinking he's the shit. And he's not out of touch with reality - he knows what he's worth, and he's got to know he's not going to get more money out there. Not much more. So what is it he's seeking?

MVP votes. Same thing as Joe Johnson - his own team.

The better question should be why do NBA players not like Nash as much as the media does? Players rave about playing with Kidd (see the latest FIBA Tourney), but while the media raves about Nash, do players? I'm genuinely asking, because we might now have two major players choosing to jettison Nash for the privilege of leading a sub-.500 team of their own...

At 9/27/2007 12:17 AM, Blogger badly drawn boykins (fka spinachdip) said...

anon 7:48 - I wasn't really going anywhere with that analogy, and anon 9:17 did a better job than I could have.

Thinking about Marion and the Suns, I can't help but think of the Clintons. They both could be much "happier" in the traditional sense with other people.

But I also think they get each other in a way that no one else could. And despite the fuckedupness of it all, they produced two successful careers in politics and one shockingly well adjusted kid.

That's how I see the Suns and Demon Bird Moth Ball. Nash might find his ego annoying and Marion sees his own wasted potential, but they're so right for each other.

At 9/27/2007 12:19 AM, Blogger badly drawn boykins (fka spinachdip) said...

sml - Like I said in the previous comment, the analogy wasn't thought out at all. Your interpretation is as good as mine.

At 9/27/2007 12:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

About Marion's tat:
Demon Bird Moth Ball is an interesting selection, considering the image in the top left of BrightSideOfTheSun.Com.

Also, I'd like to share this news with fans of HBO's Entourage:
Fuckin' Turtle is gonna be in NBA 2K8.

At 9/27/2007 2:48 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

Re: the question about why NBA players seem to like playing with Kidd more than with Nash, I think some of it might come down to the fact that Kidd can get his assists without controlling the ball that much. As good as Nash is, a lot of assists come out of creating angles with the dribble. Controlling the ball more could make the other players seem more like finishers instead of the well-rounded players that they are.

It's a really good question -- I might try to turn it into a full post.

At 9/27/2007 5:13 AM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

I don't think Marion's demands shed a negative light on Nash. We just don't know how many direct conversations have taken place between the two, so Nash might have spoken with Marion twice a week or not at all. When you read Nash's reaction in Adande's most recent Marion article, this sounds far from a guy who's fed up with his primadonna SF and doesn't want to reach out to him.

I do agree with several commenters that Marion does present a special case because of his emotions, and he already earns close to the max. So the Joe Johnson trade does fall into a different category in my opinion.

Ty does make a great point as far as the comparison between Nash and Kidd goes. Could be that this difference in style does account for some of the insecurities on the Suns. Even a force like Amare is sometimes reduced by the media to being "a great finisher". But still, Nash is no Steve Francis, and in most of the interviews his teammates go out of their way to praise him (as does Dirk and some other former teammates from Dallas).

Interesting to me is that Marion, who is supposed to feel undervalued next to Nash and Stoudemire, would now want to play second fiddle to Kobe. I have problems figuring out how to fit this into his psychological profile.

Also, the list of big names who'd like to play with Kobe seems to really have grown through last season and this summer. Marion, Boozer, Artest, B. Davis, KG...

At 9/27/2007 9:24 AM, Anonymous Sweat of Ewing said...

Whether or not the players like Kobe, I don't think many of them would pass up a chance to play with him. Who doesn't want the best player on his team?

Kobe would have to be a complete and colossal dickhead for most guys to pass up that opportunity. Plenty of guys wanted to play with Jordan, who was often an outright *terror* to have as a teammate. But he was the best. Kobe might not be as good, but he's also not as nuts about demanding perfection from his teammates (largely because he can't be, re: Smush Parker). Despite the media representation of Kobe, I think he's much more aloof and hyperprivileged than he is an asshole to his teammates.

At 9/27/2007 1:02 PM, Anonymous iverson fan said...

I should be a homer when it comes to Marion because he is a UNLV guy. But watching him try to create his own shots is painful. Watching him try to guard real powere forwards is even worse. And don't get me started on that jumpshot and the bricks that come after it.

He's one of those guys that could have a good night and then the next game you are amazed that he has played 40 minutes because you dont notice him doing anything for the whole game.

I need to watch a tape of a Suns game from 4 or 5 years ago so I can remember why Marion used to seem so good.

How was he scoring back then? Was it all putbacks and oops?

And whatever happened to Diaw's game?

Free Strawberry.

At 9/27/2007 1:24 PM, Blogger Martin said...

Ty and Kaifa raise really good points on the Kidd vs. Nash comparison. Nash's style of play, albeit highly effective is predicated on dribbling a lot, penetrating and dishing to teammates only when they are in perfect shooting/finishing positions. Kidd on the other hand is a quick passer even on half-court sets. With the exception of when he is posting up a smaller PG, Kidd will quickly give up the ball and cut hard. The Nets often run Iso’s for RJ and VC with Kidd directing traffic from the perimeter without the ball like a coach and only taking back the ball to reset a play.

When viewed in that light it is easy to see why an insecure guy like Marion would prefer to play with Kobe. Marion probably envisions playing a Pipen-like role to Kobe's Jordan- a role that acknowledges Marion’s basketball independence with the benefit of a universally accepted alpha-dog to hide his deficiencies. The Jordanaires were viewed as having benefited from MJ's presence by having their skills amplified due to the defensive attention paid to MJ and the confidence of knowing you have the GOAT on your squad. They could survive without MJ, they were just not that good without him. On the other hand the media often portrays Nash's teammates as merely cogs in the suns machine. Cogs that are vital and hard replace, but cogs all the same, that are dependent on a central engine in Nash. This view point creates the impression that the players have no value without a Nash-like engine to drive them. Of course this view point focuses on guys like Diaw and ignores players like Marion that were all-stars before Nash.

At 9/27/2007 2:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of players who have played with Nash say that Nash is absolutely amazing. I guarantee you if that was Nash instead of Kidd in the FIBA tourney, they'd be making the same coments.

And while the media may portray Nash's teammates as parts to the whole, I think everyone recognizes that Nash and Marion make the system work. Without either one of them, the system collapses. The system worked(albeit less effectively) with Diaw taking Amare's place in 05-06, but without Marion or Nash they're completely screwed.

At 9/27/2007 4:32 PM, Anonymous 3 point ointment said...

I think it has something to do with their off court personalities and how they carry themselves as to why players prefer playing with J Kidd.
Also it goes without saying that Nash is propped up so highly by the media that it has to create some type of animosity from other players.
Perfect example is last season's series against the Spurs where in the post game interview Nash was pretty testy and distributed the blame to his teamates which is something that the media never really picked up but I'm sure his teamates picked up both the fact that he blastesd his teamates and that the media let it slide choosing to play up the "ultimate team guy" b.s. that they attatch to Nash

At 9/27/2007 5:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Player prefer to play with Kidd over Nash??????

Where has anyone seen this? I guess everyone must have a short memory and only remember the summer where Kidd was being praised by Kobe and Lebron for his play.

What I remember is right when the season ended at the trade rumors started flying. What team did Kobe and Garnett say they wanted to play with....Phoenix. I didnt hear Kobe saying he wanted to get traded to New Jersey to play alongside Kidd.

At 9/27/2007 5:58 PM, Anonymous badly drawn boykins said...

To address Kaifa's question, I think other players see Kobe as the closest thing they have to a Jordan, and being a Pippen doesn't bother anyone. My guess is that Marion thinks neither Nash nor Amare is at Kobe's level, and he is bothered that he plays third chair to these mortals.

Conventional wisdom says, fairly or not, Rodman didn't respect Robinson, but he was willing to go to war for JOrdan and Pippen.

I think Kobe's alienation has been overstated at times. Yeah, he's a loner, and his Euro-suburban upbringing sets him apart, but he's not an Isaiah Rider-level paraiah.

I'm guessing it's partly generational - if Karl Malone were 15 years younger, he wouldn't have had an issue with a teenager calling a clear-out in the ASG. And the Shaq-Kobe feud had as much to do with Kobe's perceived ball hogging as it did with Shaq's insecurities.

You don't get to be an NBA player without an ego, but players are willing to let someone else lead, as long as it's the right guy.

I don't think this has to do with being the third option per se, but being a cleanup guy in Phoenix. On almost every other team, the game plan would be built at least partially around him.

At 9/27/2007 6:48 PM, Anonymous badly drawn boykins said...

PS: Speaking of Rodman, Varejao remains unsigned. Not that I like his game or anything, but just throwing that out there.

PPS: Looks like I stole Martin's post.

PPPS: So it turns out Camby had a super-premature baby. Boozer's kid has bone marrow tranpslant. Derek Fisher's daughter's health issues are well documented. NBA fatherhood isn't what it used to be.

At 9/27/2007 6:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know - NBA players who know who their kids are...what a concept!

At 9/27/2007 7:01 PM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

When the Marion-for-Kirilenko rumors started, my first reaction was to immediately reject the idea. I can't really say why, maybe it was partially because swapping two disgruntled guys straight up would be to easy and might turn out to be inconsequential.

But reading Shoals' post on Kirilenko and this discussion in the comments I'm starting to think that it might actually be a perfect trade.

I share the perception of one the Freedarko writers (was it Shoals again?) that while the Suns are still fun to watch, their revolutionary style has been softened a bit, now seems more planned and less chaotic (still the good kind of chaotic).

Maybe Kirilenko is the kind of ingredient that is able to reverse this process. He would be able to check any forward that Amare couldn't or shouldn't because of possible foul trouble, and his defense would probably enable the Suns to get into even more fast breaks than Marion's D does. (Simmons even suggests AK47 at center in his article on Marion). Also, I've seen several passes by Kirilenko when cutting through the lane that were just amazing, over his shoulders, no-look with both hands through his legs etc. My feeling is that he would fit in really well. And D'Antoni might be the guy to just let him be himself on the court.

I'm no expert on Marion, but my impression is that he might also work well as a traditional SF in a conservative offense like in Utah (except for Okur). The open 3's would still be there off either Williams' penetrations or kick-outs by Boozer, and Sloan is reportedly the kind of guy really valuing the kind of things Marion brings to the table.

One more thought on the Nash/Kidd thing - wasn't there a time when they were both on the Suns' roster when Nash was considered strictly a backup? Anything worth bringing into this discussion from that period?

At 9/27/2007 7:22 PM, Anonymous badly drawn boykins said...

Kaifa - I don't know what Nash brought to the table, but Danny Ainge had a four-guard lineup out there with KJ, Kidd, Chapman and W. Person. That's probably the most Free Darko thing to happen pre-Darko.

At 9/27/2007 7:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think he also had a lineup with Kj Kidd and Nash in the backcourt that had Nash as the spot up shooter...... wonder what kind of shooting percentage he had in that lineup

At 9/27/2007 11:46 PM, Blogger Ian said...

Marion is getting torched for his desire to be the man on his own team but is it really that awful a concept? In any other profession, the desire to strike out on your own and prove yourself is an admirable trait (even more the commendable if you're leaving a highly successful operation for one less so, see Brian Colangelo).

Something I hadn't thought of from Jack McCullum's article on SI.com: The frustration Marion feels over being the best defensive player on the Suns and constantly cleaning up the mistakes of his teammates. It has to especially gall him that Steve Nash, of such high esteem among sports writers, is so bad defensively that they made Marion guard Tony Parker in that Spurs series.

Not to mention the fact that Raja Bell made the all defense team and Marion didn't.

At 9/27/2007 11:55 PM, Blogger Zei_Zao_LS said...

Nash wasn't even close to the player he is now back in the days where he was backing up K.J. and J.Kidd. He was an efficient offensive player with a good feel for the game, but played very tentatively and conservatively, didn't shoot enough, and didn't put his stamp on the game. On the Mavericks, he started to come into his own very quickly when given the reigns of the offense though, so it was probably just an issue of needing the oppurtunity.

Also: Thanks for the link Shoals. A link from TrueHoop *and* FreeDarko. I feel validated. =p

At 9/28/2007 6:33 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

I think a large part of Marion's malaise comes from the fact that every time you see him do anything spectacular it is almost always followed by the following statement/thought: "That's what playing with Steve Nash will do for you!" However high Marion soars, the perception is that it is because it is Nash who gives him the wings to do so (despite the fact that Marion's numbers pre-Nash are virtually identical to them with Nash). Marion's desire to go to the Lakers may be in some way just him wanting to go to a team where he knows if he succeeds the team's other star (Kobe) will never get the credit for it.

At 9/28/2007 11:38 PM, Blogger Nate said...

I agree with Yams. But you know what the crazy thing about that statement is? Marion has been doing the same shit his entire career. He was an incredible player before Nash arrived. So dude does have a right to be upset with hearing crap like that. Marion averaged 21 ppg playing next to Meeeeberry in 2003. So it's not like he needs some all world playmaker to get his.


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