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NBA legend still having a ball

IN CONVERSATION: Shawn Marion

NEW YORK Knicks take on the Washington Wizards at London's O2 on Thursday, January 17. Some of sport’s biggest names will be courtside as the NBA’s finest do battle.

In town to promote the game was NBA legend Shawn Marion who played for various teams during a stellar career including the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks.

When asked what has changed in the game since he started with the Phoenix Suns in 1999 said: “The tempo is faster now. Traditional big is almost redundant now. Everybody is shooting threes now. It is a killer now. Even those who cannot shoot threes they still shoot them.”

The pinnacle of Marion’s career was when he won an NBA title in 2011 with the Dallas Mavericks.

He said: “It seems like yesterday. The team had a bond and we respected each other. Everybody helped each other and nobody took anything personal.”

“To get to the final in itself was not easy coming through the Western Conference, which was stacked with some good teams such as the San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers.

He added: “The Western Conference was a battle. When you come through the Western Conference you almost feel like the final against the team from the East is going to be an easier battle.

“I kid you not. Every team that got to the post season won 55 games. I live for a challenge and we rose to the occasion.”

In the NBA it is tradition for the champions to receive their championship rings in the first game of the following season.

Marion described how he felt when he received his honour: “I posted a video of the ceremony, which showed that you had finally accomplished something as a athlete.

“It was evidence that we were the final team standing and it was like a dream come true. It shows all the effort you put in and your hard work and dedication.”

Teams in the NBA go through 82 games in a regular season and when asked how the players manage to sustain their level of fitness, the veteran admits: “It is hard but you get used to doing it. Coming from college it is what they call a rookie wall.

“In college you play 40 games and your body feels like it wants to shut down but you condition yourself. We have a training and support team. When you are off the court, there are still certain things you have to do and maintain.”

The profile of Olympic Basketball was huge but professionals were not allowed to compete at the Olympics until 1992 when we saw the emergence of the ‘Dream Team’.

The status of the game was to rise even further.

Marion said of that seminal moment: “ I was a freshman in high school then. I remember Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley were on the team. It showed us that you could play at the world level.

“We had players coming from overseas to play in the NBA for quite some time but they were just a few. Now it put the NBA on a global scale and the Olympics is the most watched sport ever.

“When you put the NBA in that category it magnifies it much more. Now we have everyone in the world watching the games during the regular season and participating in the All Stars game and the NBA finals. Media is magnified now ten times.

“It’s exciting to be a part of this. I have watched it grow steadily. Basketball is not big in some countries. Soccer is the most watched sport in the world.

“I have started to do some coaching clinics in some countries and they have started to take up basketball.”

Marion, like so many, liked Michael Jordan but his favourite player growing up was Reggie Miller.

“He just played the game with such tenacity and he was never really a big guy. He was just a silent killer. I loved him and you have to respect the likes of Jordan and Pippen.

FAVOURITE: Reggie Miller

“A lot of times you get compared with players when you were in college but I always tried to stay in my own lane. I just wanted to be Shawn Marion.”

At the tail end of his career he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2014/15 season when the Golden State Warriors came on the scene and won the NBA title against the Cavs led by LeBron James.

He said: “That team was good but they were still fine tuning things. They were really good and they changed their roster after that year.

“They kept their core guys but their bench changed drastically. They are special and spectacular to watch. We started something at Phoenix, which they were able to complete with a twist with ball movement.”

When asked about the diversity and inclusion of the NBA he said: “I love it. I like the collaboration everyone is doing from the music to the sport, to artists to clothing is a reflection of who you are and what you represent.

“You can see the creativity that people have.”

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