In 2006, the New York Knicks were just as you expected them: highly profitable and highly mediocre. One of the leaders on that Knicks team was Stephon Marbury, a Coney Island native known for being a difficult teammate with a high upside. His raw athleticism and scoring numbers gave him two All-Star appearances earlier in his career, but following being traded to the Knicks in 2004, Marbury suffered a steady declination in his career. Being in the Big Apple, Marbury made negative headlines that often damaged his reputation and his NBA career.
But before it got bad, there was some good. Marbury released his own brand of sneakers known as Starburys that kids could get for the affordable price of $14.98. Preaching that they were just as effective as competing brands, Starburys were initially a huge hit, and many Knicks fans owned a pair. As a New Yorker from a rough neighborhood, Marbury’s good intentions were clear:
“This ain’t no hoax,” Marbury said in 2006. “I am a trailblazer. I’m willing to do the things that others wouldn’t do.”
Little did everyone know that Marbury’s sneaker line was going to radically fall as quickly as his NBA career. Lacking a sense of purpose, Marbury was depressed. He admitted to Bryant Gumbel on HBO Sports that the combination of his declining career, his Starbury sneakers failing as a product and the passing of his father gave him thoughts of suicide:
In 2010, Marbury was offered to play basketball for the Chinese Basketball Association. He took the offer, and within five years, he became an icon of the league and the sport of basketball in China. The Beijing Ducks won three CBA championships in four years on the back of Marbury. He’s loved in the country as an athlete who kids look up to. There’s even a statue of Marbury outside of Mastercard Arena, which is where the 2008 Olympics were held and where the Ducks play.
Due to being overseas, many are unaware that Marbury was able to completely turn his life around. Marbury told China Daily that it was the Chinese culture that allowed him to have success. “One that is filled with love, compassion and care,” he explained.
Marbury recently announced that his Starbury brand is going to be relaunched:
Through social media, he’s responded to critics of the shoe on both Twitter and Instagram. He explained that his shoes are made the exact same way as $200 pairs of Jordan’s, for the same cost of $5 a pair.
Given his intense fame in China and the once-successful Starbury sneakers in the United States, many believe this relaunch has a chance to generate real success. Marbury’s real concern yet again is that underprivileged kids get quality sneakers at an affordable price. But this time the gloves are off. Marbury has called out Michael Jordan himself via Twitter:
Real people know. I'm off the kids getting killed for Jordan's. I hate that this dude won't change that. Greedy! https://t.co/tcpL2whXVE
— I AM PEACE STAR (@StarburyMarbury) October 6, 2015
Jordan has been robbing the hood since. Kids dying for shoes and the only face this dude makes is I don't care. The time will change!
— I AM PEACE STAR (@StarburyMarbury) October 5, 2015
It’ll take a lot to put a dent in something as vast as the sneaker market. Michael Jordan made more this past year from sneaker sales than from his entire NBA career combined. Even if the Starburys fail as a business for a second time, he’ll be giving back to kids who suffer the same way he suffered, as well as providing for kids who envy what they simply can’t have. That is a noble act, and more importantly, Marbury has achieved the mental stability to go all in with his business.