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Ex-NBA star Marion impressed by Breakers

Newshub logoNewshub 11/10/2018 Stephen Foote
a man holding a basketball: Shawn Marion in action for Dallas Mavericks. © Image - Photosport, video - Newshub Shawn Marion in action for Dallas Mavericks.

Shawn Marion didn't overthink things, when the chance to become a part-owner of the New Zealand Breakers arose.

Three years after the end of a decorated 16-year NBA tenure, Marion was eager to pursue sports ownership as part of the next stage of his life and the Auckland-based ANBL side proved to be just the ticket.

"A friend of a friend propositioned me with the opportunity and I said 'why not?'" Marion told Newshub.

The decision was as simple as that.

A four-time NBA All Star, Marion was one of the most versatile players of his generation - the true definition of a swingman, capable of affecting a game at both ends of the court, and stuffed stat sheets on a nightly basis.

He's highly favoured to be inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame, when he becomes eligible next year, and says he feels "pretty comfortable" about his chances.

The 40-year-old got his first of glimpse of his new franchise from courtside at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Arizona, where they took on his former Phoenix Suns, the NBA team which drafted him ninth overall out of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas in 1999.

Marion was encouraged by what he saw, as the Breakers battled back from a 19-point deficit to push the Suns down the stretch and his wasn't the only head the New Zealanders turned.

"It was a great show and great performance we had - and we probably could've won, if we just took care of the ball earlier in the game.

"I love the energy and the enthusiasm they have on the floor right now, and we've got some talented guys on our team. I love their work ethic so far and I like what we're putting together out here.

"The feedback was amazing. Our team laid it out on the floor and came to compete, and you have to love and respect that."

There was no hint of divided loyalties for Marion, who revelled in his first taste of ownership.

a basketball player jumping up in the air © Provided by MediaWorks NZ Limited

"I've got so much history and love for Phoenix, but of course, I've got to root for my team to win.

"It was pretty special to go and watch the team play, and you can be a part owner and say 'hey, that's my team out there playing'. It means a lot, it's kind of cool."

He admits he had "minimal" knowledge of the ANBL, before he became involved with the Breakers.

"But I've been doing my due diligence and doing some study. One of my coaches actually played in the NBL and he spoke very highly of the league."

Having touched down on Aotearoa soil for the first time a matter of hours earlier, Marion hadn’t yet had a chance to jump on the court and impart some of his own knowledge on the Breakers players, before they tipped off the season against the Brisbane Bullets on Thursday night.

And Marion has plenty of that to go around. He was a critical piece in the Dallas Mavericks' run to an NBA championship in 2011, when they upset LeBron James' star-stacked Miami Heat in six games.

But that wasn't his favourite team - he still holds a special fondness for his rookie-year 2009 Suns squad.

"I had some great veterans on my team - Jason Kidd, Penny Hardaway, Cliff Robinson, Rodney Rogers, Luc Longley," he recalled. "Everybody on my team those first couple of years was amazing.

"I was the youngest guy on the team and they expected so much from me early. It was really exciting and liberating."

a group of people sitting in front of a crowd © Provided by MediaWorks NZ Limited

Nicknamed 'Matrix' for his diverse skillset, Marion's defensive strength meant he was often tasked with guarding the opposition's best player. That was Kobe Bryant one night, LeBron James the next - even Michael Jordan (albeit, the Wizards version), which is why you may be surprised whom he nominates as his toughest cover - Mavericks forward Jamal Mashburn.

"He wasn't a very athletic player, but he had a big body - very nonchalant and very skilled.

"He's what turned the true definition of a small forward at point guard that's transitioned in the game right now. He was a special player, I've got so much admiration and respect for him."

The NBA still clearly means a lot to Marion, as he reels off an endless list of greats he had the privilege of playing with, including two-time MVP Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Jason Terry (who he calls "my guy") and Dirk Nowitzki.

"I've had some great teammates and played for some great teams, been successful on a lot of teams. It's just amazing how many guys I got to play with and compete with.

"You build certain bonds with certain cities and players, and when you're in the NBA fraternity, it's like you're bonded together for life.

"We've got so much love and admiration for each other, when you see your colleagues, it's like you just played with them. It's like a big old family and once you’re in that family, you're embedded for life."

And what of his outlook for the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Zealand's favourite basketball son, Steven Adams, as they prepare to enter a new NBA season?

"He is good. I love his tenacity, his energy," said a wide-eyed Marion. "He's a beast in there and he plays hard.

"You gotta love it. He's a true pro and a true big man in the league.

"They've got a nice little team over there. I want them to come out of the gates early this season, though.

"They've got to start the season aggressively - they can't be up and down rollercoaster early in the year, because it can come back to haunt them.

"But if they come out strong, they can make some noise."

Marion will be at the Breakers opener at Spark Arena on Thursday night, then join the team for their next fixture against Melbourne United across the Tasman.

And no, there's zero chance that you'll ever see him on court wearing a Breakers uniform. Sorry, guys.

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