*Released on March 10, the can’t-stop-watching documentary “A Kid From Coney Island” is in theatres throughout North America. The draw is raw, authentic emotion and insight from people who unfold the story behind the story of former NBA star, Stephon Marbury.
Marbury, known to many as Starbury, a name given to him by former NBA star Kevin Garnett, is the feature of the documentary. Marbury’s story is told mostly by the people closest to him, his mother, Mabel Marbury, three of his siblings, along with several former NBA stars including Ray Allen, Chauncey Billups, God Shammgod, as well as rappers, Fat Joe and Cam’Ron. They tell Marbury’s story with a depth and clarity that sheds light on the story behind his story.
Marbury’s story has to be told because two things become clear through the documentary: Marbury has a legacy of talent and promise, but he endured pressures and misunderstandings that could have destroyed him.
The documentary shows mounting criticism about his level of commitment, capability, and competence. Part of the questions about his mental stability may have stemmed from a series of live broadcasts that Marbury was making. Following a series of Marbury’s broadcasts, that seem strange at best and erratic at worst, one reporter asked if Marbury was “high or crazy.”
The question could have stemmed from any of the scenes, particularly from the Vaseline scene where Marbury holds up a container of the product, and it is unclear what he is going to do with it. He comments on what to do when “you can’t get your voice back,” then scoops out Vaseline and gives instructions.
Out of context, Marbury’s actions created many assumptions; but, in a recent conversation with Stephon about his upcoming film release, he shared with me that I am one of the first to get this from him.
“So, I was doing live broadcasts, 10-11 years ago. When I was doing this, a lot of people wasn’t doing what they doing right now on IG…Nobody was doing it actually. I mean, you see celebrities now doing it. I laugh ‘cause them are the same people that were laughing at me for doing what it was that I was doing, but I was telling them like you going to be doing this too soon. You just don’t know you going to be doing it. And, I was doing it so much, and I had did like a 24-hour live broadcast straight and then…I had kept doing it over and over so I had lost my voice from talking so much. When I say lost it meaning like I was literally on my way to go to the hospital to get it checked, and…I was drinking tea, drinking tea trying to get it to recover back, and I really thought that I was like not going to be able to speak and talk…”
The Vaseline was a suggestion from his cousin’s 96-year-old grandmother who told him what to do with it, and when worked for him, he shared that as part of his broadcast.
In context, it is clear: Stephon was neither high nor crazy. He was mischaracterized and judged which came to be a constant problem because literally and metaphorically, people were not hearing his voice.
“A Kid In Coney Island” speaks for itself about the rise, demise, then resurgence of Stephon Marbury. His father’s tears at two points in the documentary capture the intensity of the decisions made. The family’s bond, insight, and influence are remarkable, allowing a full scope of the pressure, excitement, and pain felt throughout Marbury’s journey.
Unmistakably New York, for anyone who has experienced a real-life day in New York: the edge and grittiness are voiced throughout the documentary. But, the love, warmth and laughter are there in moments expected and unexpected, keeping it a story that anyone from any place can identify with.
For the great majority of the documentary, everyone else speaks about Stephon. Interestingly, he doesn’t speak directly until near the very end of the film. He appears in a few scenes and he expressed to me that one of those scenes was “the pivot point and the rise” and he humbly talked more with me about a scene from the film:
“At that moment is when I realized…what I have done in playing basketball and going all over the world and meeting so many different people, that was all full circle for me to be able to tell him that because obviously no one ever, ever told him that…being able to be able to share that with him: I thought that that was you know, a really monumental moment in the film.”
The scene involved Stephon talking with a young boy who has a lot of similarities with him. Stephon imparts some guidance to the youngster who afterward sits silently for quite some time before finally saying “No one ever told me that.” Stephon is then seen wiping away tears. It is clear he sees himself in the youngster. But, more importantly, Stephon sees himself and his story in all the young people who are growing up with similar adversities to his.
He shared with me:
“The documentary[‘s] name is “A Kid in Coney Island; it’s not Stephon Marbury in Coney Island. And, a kid in Coney Island, yeah it’s Coney Island. That’s us. Those are for all of the kids from Coney Island but, it’s for all of the kids all over the world that live the way how I grew up…not just kids that look like me.”
Currently, Stephon is doing what he dreamed of and he’s using his voice to inspire people. His deep faith and his commitment be conscious, aware, and present help him to guide everyone he encounters so that they take the information that he can share with them and they can “put it together, add it to what they’re doing and make different decisions based upon them going in the right direction.”
He further wants to help others “tap into their inner self to know…that they have a higher connection and a higher purpose for their lives so that they will never feel like they’re alone.”
Marbury’s documentary allows others to speak about him. It highlights some of his unparalleled skills in basketball. It shares his dad’s thoughts about dreams and shows Stephon living them out in many ways. Marbury’s triumphs and tragedies fill the minutes from start to finish.
After hearing about him from other people, and after speaking with him, Stephon’s documentary is what he says it is, a story about “all of us.” He sees basketball as his “gateway” to reach out to all people so that he can share what his experience has taught them, help them to make good decisions, and live like water, a concept of his “idol” Bruce Lee which he refers to during his documentary.
Stephon’s concluding comment in our conversation was his own understanding of the concept:
“Water is so powerful. It could, it could crash or it can flow, right. So for me, I like to use it in the way that it flows ‘cause if you look at water when it’s choppy and it’s crazy, right. But, when you look at it when it’s calm, when it’s cool … it, it looks pretty; it feels pretty. It can literally change your emotional mood as a human. And, for me, I like to try to be as smooth and as cool as I can along the lines of knowing that it’s going to be choppy, and it’s going to be…it’s gonna crash; it’s gonna be all of the different things so to just flow and move with the rhythm of the movement of what’s happening.”
Everyone can benefit from that ideal and from seeing Marbury’s triumph after things did crash for him, but are now flowing smoothly.
J. Jermayne (@JJermayne57) is the author of 6 published books, 3 are sports themed. Jermayne freelance writes and travels to cover sports and entertainment events.