In the words of artist Jaden Smith "What you call a Icon Living?
For the kids growing up in a New York City housing project with hoop dreams in the 1990s the best answer would be Stephon Marbury. The Coney Island Legend's promise was spoken of years before it manifested, being the prodigy in a basketball family that had knocked on the door of the NBA for years until Stephon opened it. The legend around the Marbury name became engrained in the fabric of the city once it became apparent that Stephon would indeed reach the highest level.
The 1996 NBA Draft is regarded as one the greatest drafts in history. The value of star power was tremendous with the likes of Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Ray Allen in the fold. But the center piece to that draft and why New York City kids like myself were 100 percent tuned in was Steph. When it was announced that the Milwaukee Bucks were trading the draft rights to Steph for Ray Allen to the Minnesota Timberwolves we were beyond hyped. Steph would be teamed with another prep phenom Kevin Garnett, who was drafted to the team a year prior.
Marbury and Garnett were both 1995 McDonald's All-Americans, so the chemistry they had prior to linking in Minnesota was preset. Although KG was the first prep player to make the jump from high school to the pros in years, it was the addition of Marbury that immediately changed the feel and value of the franchise. The minute Marbury's Minnesota jersey was available in stores, I saved what ever money I could get to buy it. Anytime I wore it, I felt empowered and the mark of his achievement uplifted many other youth around the metropolitan area.
When SLAM magazine released it's 97-98 NBA preview edition, Marbury and Garnett were on the cover draped in Timberwolves gear. Marbury's economic impact on the struggling franchise was very apparent from the onset. The title of the cover was "Showbiz and KG", and it was clear that the Minnesota Timberwolves meant business by pairing these two together. Marbury would help lead the franchise to their first playoff appearance ever and seem to reverse the FORTUNE in Minnesota. No one from the 1996 NBA draft was having as much of an impact on wins and losses for their franchise than Marbury. The 2x defending champion Chicago Bulls came into Minnesota in the 97-98 season and were dosed with a bit of the future as the Timberwolves pulled off the upset victory. It was the first for Minnesota against Chicago in franchise history.
Although his tenure was cut short by a trade to the then New Jersey Nets, there is no question about the value Marbury still holds as a former member of the Timberwolves. Marbury was not able to wear #3 fo the Nets because the number is retired in honor of the late great Drazen Petrovic, who played for the franchise from 1991 until his untimely passing in 1993.
In the case of Steph, he was a member of the Timberwolves from 1996-1999, made history, sold alot of merchandise, and is still inspiring millions of people across the world, as he has broadened his range and evolved into an even bigger icon if one could believe it. When people wrote him off, Steph went to China and became 3x champion in the Chinese Basketball Association. Two statues and a museum later, you have to wonder what the NBA Hall of Fame is thinking in regards to Steph not joining his fellow 1996 NBA Draft classmates.
But first things first, and the first place this icon landed professionally was Minnesota. Stephon Marbury embodies the culture of basketball and has been a vital piece in shaping the current business of it. Present day, I would buy every Stephon Marbury Minnesota jersey if I could, it's my favorite one. It's a time capsule of what was and would could have been. The stuff that legends are made of. The Timberwolves could thank the basketball gods who have essentially laid the jersey retirement ceremony plan out for them. They just have to hope Steph isn't at another statue unveling somewhere when they make the attempt.