The Marion Paradox
Everyone who follows the NBA knows about the Suns by now. They know about the Suns style, they know about the Suns players. They know about the run and the gun, they know about the Steve Nash alley oops and the Amare dunks, the three point barrages, the ups and downs the Suns go through over the course of the game. They know all about how Nash can hit the three and use both hands, which has undoubtedly led to quite a few sportscasters having to look up the definition of "Ambidextrous". Everybody knows about Amare's fearsome dunks, the pick and roll, the microfracture surgery, about the resurgence to being a premier player in the league... if only so they could retain hope for the future of players like Greg Oden and Kenyon Martin.
And yet... what about the third cog in the Suns machine? How many people know that Shawn catches more alley-oops than anybody else in the league? How many people know that there are a grand total of two plays the Suns actually ever run for Shawn? Who remembers the Marion offensive rebound that led to the game tying three by Nash, and if you do remember it, do you ever put more emphasis on that than the shot?
A man who is generally toted as one of the uniquely talented players in the league, a superstar in his own right and yet not a true superstar. A man who is a legit 20 PPG scorer, yet has no on ball moves. A man who can go off for 35 points and 20 rebounds one night, and get 10 points and 3 rebounds the next. A walking double double who is far too small to be counted on consistently for that kind of production. A pure hustle role player who puts up superstar types of numbers. A man who can be counted on to guard the opposing point guard and the opposing center in the same game, and do so well enough that he's actually helping the team by taking on such tough assignments.
Marion runs through every game, never stopping, and yet, never seems to fatigue. He bounces up and down through the entire game and yet never seems to get injured the way most people who pogo-stick through games somehow manage. A slasher who can't get to the free throw line... Even Shawn's shot form seems to aimlessly defy common sense, as if for no better reason than because nothing can ever make sense in Shawn's game.
All this seems to pose one question: For someone who is so uniquely talented, why isn't his name plastered everywhere? Why is Shawn brought up in every trade talk that vaguely involves Phoenix in any way? Why is he so sought after but generally devalued?
It's an interesting set of questions and raises even more interesting contradictions concerning Shawn. Shawn is extremely personable and well liked in general, always a smiling face and an interesting quip... and yet, he seems to lack the charisma to pull off his own image. Much like he plays the game, he rushes straight on through his conversations with whoever is interviewing him, who is invariably baffled by how fast he talks and his sense of urgency to not be talking anymore. Would Shawn be considered a true superstar if he were more charismatic? Who knows. He still gets his TV ads, both local and national... and is put right next to bona fide superstars in the process. There he stands, walking side by side with the best players in the league... Kobe, LeBron and Nash all among the people in the oft-watch "Second Coming" commercials... and he was given the same type of spotlight as them.
And yet, you ask people "Paul Pierce or Shawn Marion?" (both are in that video), a good majority of those people will probably say Pierce. (Unless you are talking with just Suns fans. Then it might be a different story.) Even myself, I can't think of any reason that you would rather have Shawn Marion than, say... Chris Paul. Why? I really don't know. It's yet another example of the intractable nature of his game.
Nobody in Phoenix really wants to get rid of him... yet, if he did go... would there really be an outcry? There would if Amare were to get traded. If the Suns had indeed sent one of the packages for Garnett up to Wolvesland, most Suns fans would gladly trade Marion instead of Amare. Would you have rather seen Amare and Kurt Thomas head to the Wolves for KG, or Marion and Kurt Thomas? And imagine the fervent cries of "KILL SARVER!" were the Suns to trade Nash this offseason.
Why, then, would the third man in our big three... the man who was #4 in scoring, #1 in rebounding, #1 in steals, #1 in blocks, #1 in minutes played, #4 in FG%, and missed a grand total of two games this season... why would the outcry be so much smaller?
Is it the frustration Shawn causes amidst his brilliance? The thrill of him losing his man and throwing down a poorly thrown alley-oop which he still somehow managed to catch followed by him inexplicably missing a wide open lay up the next play down? The thrill of him hitting a big three pointer when we need it most, followed by him somehow rocketing the ball up into the stands on a botched dunk attempt? The feeling overwhelming admiration when he comes from behind to reject someone five inches taller than himself, grab the rebound, and then the feeling of despair when he throws the ball away directly after?
Or is it something far simpler... the fact that he can't score without someone giving him the ball in a position to do it. Whether that means on a pass or an offensive rebound, or even him just scooping the ball up after a loose ball. Perhaps it's the fact that any time he starts dribbling, the only time he will ever get to the hoop is if the guy guarding him is so much slower than him that he has no business guarding him in the first place.
Or maybe it's that, through all of this... through being the highest paid player on the team, being named to the all star team, getting lucrative advertising deals, being one of the top vote getters for defensive player of the year... he still finds time to claim that he's unappreciated. Perhaps it's the potential for him to destroy the team's chemistry with a me-first attitude in a system that calls for selflessness. And all this while embodying the idea of a team player. Someone who will do what he does irregardless of his teammate's accomplishments... Someone who can win games through hard work and desire.
So why is his game so appealing while managing to be appalling?
Just another contradiction in the world of Shawn Marion.
Edit: Big thanks to TrueHoop, FreeDarko, Golden State of Mind, and everyone else who I'm forgetting for all the link-love.