The Naismith Hall of Fame is very strange. It isn’t a professional hall of fame or one limited to a group of specific players. It is a more nuanced, less defined hall of fame that allows for what appears to be very odd choices to be inducted — provided the players, coaches, or people up for induction have done enough from an overall standpoint to get the nod.
It’s also not as riddled in hypocrisies as MLB’s hall of fame, or as “defined by eras” as the NFL’s.
Anyway, the Naismith Hall of Fame–and the potential people who can get in it–make for great debate and usually comes down to subjective thinking. Seriously, it is so preference based that a player as loathed as Dwight Howard have people calling him a Hall of Famer while others say he stinks. That’s how wide of a margin there is when discussing who is or isn’t a basketball Hall of Famer.
OK, deep breath.
I think Stephon Marbury should get inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame.
Wait! Wait! Don’t leave yet. I swear there’s a tiny bit of logic here.
Marbury’s not getting my vote of confidence as a player. He was a fine NBA guy who had a mostly whatever career. That’s not why I’m suggesting he gets serious consideration to join the likes of legit all-time greats like Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson.
Rather, I think Marbury should be inducted into it as an ambassador of the sport, much in the same way Yao Ming is more getting in for his impact on the game than he is for his performance on the hardwood.
While hard, try to forget everything you likely remember about the Starbury era. Put the Vaseline back in the cabinets, wash away his New York Knicks days, and if nothing else, try to separate what you remember of him as a person and as a player from what is about to be presented to you in the most humble of fashions.
It’s been awhile now, and it has garnered a fair amount of domestic attention, but Marbury has become a legitimate superstar in China. Not just on the basketball floor, but in all aspects of culture, as he has transcended the sport entirely.
He has won three championships with Beijing. He has a statue. And he has likely inspired as many Chinese people to play the sport of basketball as anyone else in the history of it. That’s a pretty big deal.
There’s even more to this idea of Marbury getting in as an ambassador of the sport.
We can remember all the odd things about him, but he has done a lot of tremendous off-the-court things that have basketball players appear in a really good light.
He sold the Starbury line of shoes on the cheap so people who couldn’t afford a pair of Nikes can still get “cool” shoes, donated $250,000 to help victims of the September 11 attacks, another $4 million (FOUR BLEEPING MILLION) to New York City — $1 million each to the NYPD, FDNY, EMT, and New York City Teacher’s Fund — and another $1.5 million to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.
For those who often say, “put your money where your mouth is,” not only should all those great causes be thrilled that money came to it without his saliva and vaseline all over it, but those are herculean financial efforts to help those who sure as heck can use it.
That’s a lot of impacting on people thanks to him using the money he made off his basketball career.
Circling back to his impact in China, in 2014 Marbury was named one of the Top 10 Model Citizens for Beijing. That was due to his commitment to the community and the charity work he provided for it. He became the first international citizen to earn such an honor since its inception.
Think about it: Marbury is breaking gosh slam blurred lines with a communist government. He is half-ambassador of the sport of basketball, and half-ambassador of the United States to all of the people in China. Hell, he’s done more for world peace than Captain America, and with far less violence.
On the surface, of course, inducting Marbury into the Naismith Hall of Fame seems patently absurd. But sometimes getting into it should have more to do with one’s impact off the hardwood than on it. If the precedent for that has already been set by others, there are zero good reasons to not at least give him a sincere look and consideration for induction.
Sometimes, as it appears here, the greatest impact one can have on basketball isn’t with how a person played on it, but how they used the platform provided by it to help improve the lives of others and spread the sport across a global level. That’s my argument for Stephon Marbury.