The NBA has different superstars in every era. Fans love speculating who will have the upper hand should their idols meet in the finals. For the first edition of Take your Pick, we ask fans to choose between two spitfire point guards: Stephon Marbury or Steve Francis.
The legend of Starbury
The Milwaukee Bucks drafted Stephon “Starbury” Marbury in 1996. Marbury was part of the infamous 1996 draft class, which featured future All-Stars and Hall of Famers such as Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Ray Allen, and Allen Iverson, to name a few. But the Bucks draftee was immediately shipped to the Minnesota Timberwolves. In his 13-year-career, he suited up for the New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets, Toronto Raptors, Phoenix Suns, and Boston Celtics.
He earned a reputation in the league as someone who was after the money when he left the Wolves for the Knicks. That tainted his legacy and his relationship with fans. Marbury owned a sick crossover move he used to blow by defenders and had more than decent outside shooting. In a sense, he was Damian Lillard before Damian Lillard. Marbury kept the defense thinking what his next step would be. He could also pass the ball, which made him a good combo guard.
When his career in the NBA came to its end, he explored playing overseas. His destination: China. At that time, the Chinese Basketball Association was not a top choice for ex-NBA players, but the 6’2″ guard changed all that notion. He slowly erased the reputation of ex-pros coming into China just to cash in the last paycheck before retiring. The 2-time All-Star played his heart out, earning the respect of Chinese fans in the process. Marbury received a Chinese green card, a museum built in his honor, and released a book and some movies about his life. His NBA career might not have panned out the way it was supposed to, but he found a home in China and became a bigger star there.
Steve Francis “The High Leaper”
Steve Francis can jump. A 6’3″ shooting guard competing in the All-Star Dunk contest? Francis almost made it had it not been for a certain Vince Carter winning it all in the 2000 edition. Like Marbury, Steve could play. He was able to score in bunches, slash to the basket, owned a sick crossover, and could dunk like no guard in the NBA at the time.
The Vancouver Grizzlies drafted Francis in 1999. Before playing a single game for the Grizzlies, Francis requested a trade immediately because apparently, he did not want to play there. He was shipped to the Houston Rockets and formed a dynamic partnership with Yao Ming. Unfortunately, injuries happened, and Francis soon found himself bounced off a few NBA teams. He suited up for Orlando Magic and New York Knicks but failed to reach the hype he was once surrounded with early in his career.
Like Marbury, Steve found himself trying for the CBA. He made it to the lineup of Beijing Ducks in 2010 but left after a month after a measly offensive production. Post playing days, the athletic guard had to fight off personal demons. In 2016, he was arrested for driving under the influence. The former All-Star was also apprehended for threatening a public servant. He would turn himself in after a warrant was issued for his arrest for committing burglary.
A tale of two guards
There’s a lot of similarities between Francis and Marbury in terms of skills set and offensive arsenal. Based on numbers, Marbury enjoys a slight advantage in career points and assists, while Francis is a better rebounder and defender. Both guards were fun to watch in their heydays, and both quickly lost everything as fast as they rose to stardom.
They tried to revive careers in China, with only one being successful at continuing his career and making an impact while building a bridge between the CBA and NBA. Francis and Marbury had to battle their own demons and faced career-altering injuries. Both persevered and have found other things worth pursuing.
The former Rockets star is now an investor and team owner in The Basketball League. The minor league is no NBA, but at least the former All-Star Dunk participant has found the next chapter of his career. By being a team owner, Steve Francis is helping others to make it to the NBA. He used to be that guy, and he wants others to learn from him.
Fans can have different opinions on the professional careers of Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis. Still, no one can deny the impact they left in the NBA and how it inspired the next Currys, Lillard’s, and Mitchells.
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