It was supposed to be a storybook ending for the Coney Island prodigy when the Knicks announced they’d be bringing Stephon Marbury home in a Jan. 2004 trade with the Phoenix Suns.
In Marbury, the Knicks were getting a point guard who could do it all.
Not only was Marbury capable of making a circus pass to find the open man for the assist, but he also had the uncanny ability to create his own shot no matter who was guarding him.
When New York acquired him, Marbury was part of an elite group of point guards that averaged at least 20 points and eight assists for their careers.
As part of the Marbury transaction, the Knicks also absorbed a $76 million contract extension—to take effect at the onset of the 2005-06 season—he’d signed with the Suns.
The Knicks reached the playoffs during the half season Marbury was at the helm, but they were swept by the New Jersey Nets in the first round.
It was all downhill from there.
Public spats with Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas further enhanced fellow players’ and fans’ disdain for Marbury and fueled the dysfunction of an abysmal team.
Marbury’s Hall of Fame-worthy numbers became quite ordinary by his third year with the team. In his final season under Thomas, Marbury averaged career lows of 14.9 points and 5.1 assists, and Thomas even removed him from the starting lineup.
The hostile point guard had managed to alienate just about everyone around him and made no bones about wanting out of New York.
When Mike D’Antoni replaced Thomas as head coach for the 2008-09 season, some past issues from D’Antoni and Marbury butting heads during their brief time in Phoenix together reemerged. D’Antoni elected to name Chris Duhon the starting point guard after training camp, distancing himself and the organization from Marbury even further.
A late Nov. 2008 game, in which New York only had nine healthy players available, including Marbury, was the last straw.
After the Knicks had vacated the starting shooting guard position once held by Jamal Crawford, D’Antoni offered Marbury a chance to step into the role. Marbury refused to offer his services and received a single-game suspension.
Marbury met with former Knicks president Donnie Walsh to discuss a buyout on Dec. 1, 2008. Unable to see eye to eye, a disgruntled Marbury was banned from the team indefinitely.
On Feb. 24, 2009, Marbury and the Knicks finally agreed on a buyout in which he would forfeit approximately $2 million of his $21 million salary. It had been anything but a fairytale.
Over the course of about five years, New York paid Marbury close to $88 million and failed to make another postseason appearance after 2004. One of the NBA’s storied franchises, the Knicks also managed to become the laughing stock of professional basketball.
Meanwhile, Marbury was picked up by the Boston Celtics in the wake of the buyout to back up Rajon Rondo en route to a conference semifinals loss.
The last two years, he’s earned as little as $25,000 a month to play professionally in China. Now 34, Marbury has fallen into relative obscurity, and his NBA days are likely behind him.