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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How To Make Stephon Marbury Likable    

(Hint: the answer is NOT to watch him play basketball.)

Sometimes, old news doesn't merit its own post.  For example, yesterday I opted not to discuss Greg Maddux' proclivity for peeing on prized prospects, because the story came out in March.  There's nothing to add, other than a touch of asparagus, and acknowledging the joke privately is probably enough.

But then sometimes you come across an old story that changes the way you view a really prominent star.  Not that I don't look at Maddux differently now that I know he's a leg-pisser, but the scope here is a bit more serious.  The Maddux Stream is light comedy.  Life goes on without stopping to watch the old man taking a piss in the shower.

LeBron James being a fucking bastard, however, is serious business.

Back during the season, Stephon Marbury got hated on by LeBron his endorsement the Starbury line of budget-priced basketball shoes.  LeBron's comment, speaking as a Nike endorser: "Me being with Nike, we hold our standards high."

Yeah, because all the underprivileged kids of America should force their parents to cough up what little money they bring in to buy your stupid little status symbol.  It's more important to build your 25,000 square foot fuckhouse than it is for all the little LeBrons to amass some wealth.  You pompous fucking asshole.

Meanwhile, Marbury's measured response?  "I'd rather own than be owned."  Speak.

This came up again because Marbury is now going after Michael Jordan for not doing likewise.  If anyone could come out with a fair-price shoe, it's Jordan, right?

I don't mean to suggest that Marbury is doing this strictly out of the goodness of his heart.  He has an equity stake in the Starbury line; making that a brand name is definitely in his financial interests.  (That explains the "be owned" remark.)  But this is a great example of striking a compromise between responsible and irresponsible business practices.  When you've made as much money in the NBA as Stephon Marbury, what's the difference between "loads of cash" and "shitloads of cash" anyway?  How many toddlers are you going to kick in the face to make another hundred bucks?  When does it stop?  It's refreshing to see that Marbury has some sense of when enough is enough.


  • Jeff, I think you're overreacting. Expecting someone in LeBron's position to fight the entire direction of our consumer-driven culture, I think, is asking too much of him.

    Do we even know anything about this story, really? Are the Starburys actually any good? Are they at all durable? And, I don't really know if he's right, but shouldn't LeBron believe his shoes are better? Is it so impossible to imagine he really believes that he's attaching his name to a product with higher standards? It's not even clear to me that he's really taking a shot at Marbury from his comment, really.

    Anyway, I think what Marbury's doing is great. And LeBron may be being kind of a snot here, but I'm not convinced from this snippet that he's fanatically anti-cheaper-shoe. You'll certainly have a hard time convincing me it's some defining aspect of his character.

    And really, I'm not sure Marbury's efforts here are going to have any impact. I think a big part of the cachet of big brand sneakers is that they're expensive. That's what makes them flashy. I don't particularly like it, but people of all different income levels have been finding ways to lord their status over eachother for millennia. I can't see the Starbury changing that much.

    And you didn't make this point, but in the other blog post where he says that LeBron is forgetting where he came from? Please. Apart from being absurdly presumptuous, my guess is that LeBron is remembering exactly how much he wanted those Air Jordans growing up. That's exactly he wants to be associated with. I suppose I don't know for sure, but I imagine he didn't view them as stupid status symbols then, and he doesn't now.

    By Blogger Jesse, at 1:34 AM  

  • Marbury played all season in his $15 shoes, so the quality must be accetpable at the very least. If so, there is no way for the price difference to come with an equivalent quality difference.

    And that's the point. It's all about price and symbolism, not quality. LeBron could easily put out a comparable shoe for 1/3 of the price. Instead, he chooses to price-gouge and exploit. LeBron's essentially proud of exploiting kids who don't know any better... and encouraging them to continue not knowing any better.

    Maybe he didn't mean for it to come out as snotty as it did. But I'm not giving him a free pass just because he's too ignorant and uneducated to realize what he said. If I ever start handing out forgiveness vouchers to rich people, "LeBron James, for inadvertently big-leaguing the millions of kids who can't afford his shoes" is way the fuck down at the bottom of my list.

    Marbury, of all people, came up with a win-win situation. He gets rich while also allowing kids to have good-enough-quality shoes. Yes, it's expecting a lot of a guy like LeBron to criticize him for not being more enlightened, but if Marbury can act like a responsible businessman, so can everyone else.

    The thing that drives my objection is the notion of "just because you can doesn't mean you should." It's a very simple ethical test, one that I think LeBron has failed with flying colors.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 12:55 PM  

  • I don't see it. He signed the Nike contract, he has to rep his brand. He's a cog in the machine. What Marbury's done is great (and it's cool that he's standing by their quality in such a direct way... and even moreso that the quality is actually good enough), but I can't find something LeBron has really done wrong in this.

    LeBron and all of the other athletes being marketed in this way are the smallest part of this problem. And without evidence to the contrary, I'm inclined to believe that LeBron thinks his shoe is a higher standard than Marbury's. Why wouldn't he?

    By Blogger Jesse, at 2:27 PM  

  • If he's just a mindless Nike slave like you're suggesting, with no control over the outcome of his shoe contract, wouldn't the appropriate response have been "If Nike asks me to do it, I'll do it"?

    He chose to answer a question about sponsoring affordable sneakers by acting like it would be beneath him. I have zero respect or sympathy for that. And I see no reason whatsoever to give him a break.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 3:29 PM  

  • I think this is an ineffective forum to really discuss this. I feel like we're talking past each other.

    By Blogger Jesse, at 5:30 PM  

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