The Matrix Reloaded: Retirement Won't End the Unique Versatility of Shawn Marion

Jared Zwerling@JaredZwerlingNBA Senior WriterJune 13, 2015

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Former Suns general manager Bryan Colangelo jokes that the only thing Shawn Marion could have done more of in his career is get to the free-throw line.

That's because Marion, who's more popularly known as The Matrix, basically did it all in a 16-year career that should lead to a Hall of Fame nomination. "I remember scouting his college games for the 1999 draft, and my eyes were fixated on him," Colangelo said. "The guy was literally all over the place."

The 37-year-old, who became the first player in NBA history to reach 15,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 1,000 blocks and 500 threes, won a title with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011, brought unique versatility to both ends of the court and was mostly durable throughout his illustrious career. Marion, who will be retiring after the Cavaliers' Finals run, was even the top fantasy player in his mid-20s.

"Shawn made us not guardable and also defensively he helped us by far because we could put him on a point guard and he'd guard big guys," said Mike D'Antoni, reflecting on his Suns teams in the mid-2000s. "He was one of the first ones to do all that stuff. And he never wore down and he never got pounded. It's almost like a boxing match where you catch a guy in the ropes, but they could never catch him in the ropes. He was always dancing and moving. He beat all expectations."

Just like the way Marion bounced around the court, he'll be doing the same in retirement: dabbling in everything from business to acting to family time to culinary arts to outdoor adventure.

Bleacher Report recently spent time with Marion to have him reflect on his basketball career and open up about the next stage of his life. The conversation below is presented from his perspective and edited for clarity and length.

Shawn Marion hoisting the Eastern Conference Finals championship trophy with Cavaliers general manager David Griffin. Both started their NBA careers with the Suns.
Shawn Marion hoisting the Eastern Conference Finals championship trophy with Cavaliers general manager David Griffin. Both started their NBA careers with the Suns.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Is this how I wanted to go out? No, not playing right now. But I wanted to go out on top of the mountain, winning it all. That would be the icing on the cake for me. That was one of my dreams.

When you're a competitor the way I am, of course you want to contribute more. I would love to be on the floor helping the guys more if it was possible, but sometimes it's not in your control all the time; it's coaching and timing. We all come to a certain position in our careers, and we've got to make sacrifices. To win a championship, you've got to sacrifice for the team, and that's what it's about.

The older you get, it's definitely an adjustment, but I know every little thing helps. It's about leading by example—just having positive words and encouragement. That's what builds a team. You hold one another accountable and then when guys are down, you try to pick them up.

Our team has a bunch of great guys with great personalities, comical guys. We're around one another a lot, from dinners to bowling to sitting around and drinking wine. You've got to have some kind of bond, some kind of chemistry to really make the spark work. We did a pretty good job of being a team collectively, and it says a lot.

Marion and LeBron James.
Marion and LeBron James.Mark Duncan/Associated Press

When I was young, I had a great group of veterans in Phoenix, and they opened the door for me and paved the way. I was going to everybody's house. I took turns going from Penny Hardaway's to Jason Kidd's to Rodney Rogers' to Tom Gugliotta's—everybody. I wanted to learn how to be a pro. It's easy to be an NBA player, but it's hard for guys to learn how to be a professional athlete. Those guys made my adjustment easy.

I kept getting better and better every year, and I expanded my game. I went from shooting a few threes my rookie season to shooting multiple threes and doing all kinds of stuff. When you're playing with different point guards—from Kidd to Stephon Marbury to Steve Nash—you have to adjust your game.

I adapted every time.

I played so much it was ridiculous, especially early in my career. People were like, "Take a little time off, young fella." I was like, "Take time off?" I was back in the gym two weeks after the season was over. There is a rookie wall in your first couple of years, but once I fought through it, I got to the point where I didn't get tired anymore. I felt like I was the Energizer Bunny out there.

When I came into the league, everybody was talking about my knees. But I've never had major surgeries on them. I had one scope on my left knee and that was it. I've had tendinitis a little bit, but that's about it. But who doesn't have tendinitis when you're playing 82 games per year?

More recently, I've developed arthritis in certain joints from just the wear and tear of the game. But I've basically been injury-free my entire career.   

One surgery I'll likely get down the road is to correct my bent left pinkie finger. I broke it in high school and then dislocated it my first day of practice in the NBA. During my career, it kept getting hit more and more, and going further and further out. I just can't get surgery while I'm playing because if it breaks again, it will go right back to the way it was. Fortunately, I've avoided the knife a lot. I'm a firm believer in once you do that, you'll probably never be the same again.

A big inspiration early in my career was my former Suns teammate Cliff Robinson, one of the most versatile guys coming into the league. He was the first guy who was able to guard 1 through 5. Even though he was bigger than me, I was like, "If he can do it, I can do it."

Cliff Robinson played with Marion on the Suns from 1999 to 2001.
Cliff Robinson played with Marion on the Suns from 1999 to 2001.Jeff Gross/Getty Images

I went from guarding the 3s to guarding the 1s to the 4s, and I felt like I deserved Defensive Player of the Year. I was banging with the 4s for a full year in Phoenix, and that's when you really had power forwards. One night I'm guarding Kevin Garnett and then the next night I'm guarding Tim Duncan or Chris Webber—every power forward in the league.

I was way undersized at 6'7". And I didn't do it for like one, two quarters; I did it for the whole game. Even two, three years ago in Dallas, I was guarding all the point guards in the league.

You know what's funny? When they talked about my shooting form over what I was doing on the floor. Nobody in the league shoots the same way, so why do you want to use that as a focal point to talk about what I'm doing? I've seen guys with perfect form who can't hit the backboard. I don't shoot any different than anybody else; I've just got a slower release.

When Kenny Smith gave me my nickname on national TV in my first-ever preseason game, that's what everybody knew me as, and it's something that I ran with. I actually trademarked "Matrix 31" my rookie season, with my jersey number. I got it incorporated as an LLC.

I put "Matrix 31" on everything I do to a certain degree. It's my website, I've put it on my cars and it's the logo on my seats in my home movie theater. Even my pool and poker tables have "Matrix 31." The Suns and Mavericks also designed The Matrix-inspired bobbleheads of me for the fans, and I had them blown up. They're about four feet high. I also have posters themed from the movie. I collect almost everything I can, and people have sent me some cool stuff as well.

I also collect custom guitars. My first one was a gift from a sponsor when I was in Phoenix. I was like, "This is a hell of a souvenir." It was decorated with a monogram of an action image of myself. That's what I've been doing more recently, incorporating every team I've played on.

The uniquely versatile and durable Marion has been a game-changer in the NBA—even with his injured left pinkie finger.
The uniquely versatile and durable Marion has been a game-changer in the NBA—even with his injured left pinkie finger.Brandon Wade/Associated Press/Associated Press

Was it a tough process to retire? No. I said a long time ago that I wanted to play 15 years in the league, which I did last year. But I saw an opportunity in Cleveland to go out with a championship possibly, and I had to explore it. And I was able to be close to Chicago, where my son is.

Shawn Jr. just turned one, and your priorities change once you have a child. I developed a little bond with him last summer, and it goes a long way. Also, everything was kind of shifting for me. My body is telling me it's definitely slowing down and it's a lot harder to come back from injuries. It's so rigorous right now that I had to look at the options for myself and what's best for me now and my family.

The biggest thing is I want to develop a full-time schedule with my son, but I'm slowly getting into the process of exploring some things. I definitely want to do something with the NBA, but I don't know what yet. I do have the 10th season of my basketball camp this summer at North Chicago Community High School. My camp director is one of my sisters, Quinnisha, and she wanted to make sure we did at least 10.

I'm also thinking about getting my real estate license. I've got some investments, a few hedge funds. I attend a few business and investment seminars, and it's interesting. My former Suns teammate Jimmy Jackson really got me thinking about the business side of basketball, and I've talked to Magic quite a bit on investment deals. He's just a mogul now.

I do have an interest in acting. I've made guest spots on some shows, and I've actually thought about doing an internship with a big movie studio. I also may take a culinary class. I love grilling and entertaining people. I love catfish, lasagna and fried chicken. Actually I'm going to get some recipes for soups and side dishes from our team chef, Terry Bell. But if I don't know how to make something, I call my mother, Elaine, and she helps me.

Overall, I try to enjoy life to the fullest. I really want to do a trip around the world, and I'm planning how to do it now. I want to go to a lot of different places—Dubai, Fiji, Thailand. I've been to China, but I want to go to Hong Kong.

I also love the water. I go boating, tubing and I have jet skis, and I'm actually building a second house in north Dallas on a lake. I've also got a couple of ATVs, and I love paintball. I've always wanted a paintball course at my house, but it's kind of hard to do.

I am going to start deer and wild boar hunting later this year in Texas and Arkansas, where my family is. When I played in Dallas, I met some people who hunt, and I like going to the gun range. I even have two collectible pieces that are gold-plated, including a Desert Eagle and an AK-47 that was used as a movie prop. For the hunting I'm going to do, I actually need to get fitted for a custom gun because my arms are so long.

It's crazy how everything has come full circle in Cleveland. I teamed up with Raja Bell and James Jones in Phoenix, Mike Miller in the 2001 Goodwill Games, LeBron in the 2004 Olympics, Brendan Haywood in Dallas and general manager David Griffin and assistant coach Jim Boylan in Phoenix. You can't put a price on all that stuff. 

There's also no price on being able to compete at the level we compete at and play in the front of the world. It's just amazing; it's just a true blessing. Everybody has dreams and aspirations of doing certain things, and I was fortunate enough to make my dreams come true and do it at a high level. It doesn't get any better than that.

The Hall of Fame—why not? It's a hell of an accomplishment.

Jared Zwerling covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.


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