Tag Archives: Stephon Marbury

LeBron James and the Heat look young again while I age myself

Sometimes aging is smooth and graceful, like realizing I’m only 24 and have plenty of life left in me. Other times it’s a rude awakening, like stressing out over crazy things like responsibilities while being reminded of more enjoyable times, like the first time I watched a basketball team chasing a three-peat make their stop in Minneapolis.

There’s very little I remember about the time the 1998 Bulls came to Minnesota, likely because I was playing basketball with a five-foot hoop, one with an oval-shaped cardboard backboard and an Orlando Magic logo slapped on it my dad squeezed into the basement a couple years earlier. The space to chuck bricks at it to the point it looked like I was trying to mash a hole was something like 10 feet wide and 15 feet long. To the left of the hoop were the house’s furnace and firewood which represented out of bounds along with wherever the carpet near it ended. The right right side of the basement featured a couple steps leading to a worn out couch and a television I watched basketball from when I wasn’t bouncing off the walls with energy, which was basically never.  

That’s probably why I remember very little from that game 16 years ago between the Bulls and Timberwolves. Outside of watching basketball, roughly 99% of my freezing Minnesota winters from 1996 to 1999 – first grade through fourth for me – were spent shooting hoops in the basement or playing NBA Live 95, 97, or 98 after school. Having the flu didn’t stop me from any of those hobbies, and especially not after Michael Jordan’s ‘Flu Game’ during the ’97 Finals. I still remember the times I labored from my bed to the basement, humming the theme song of NBA on NBC only for my legs to feel like Jell-O a few minutes later. It was never a good idea to create my own flu game, but I couldn’t help it.

The little I remember from the time the Timberwolves beat the Bulls, though, like Stephon Marbury celebrating by heaving the ball into the stands, will stick with me for as long as I’ll live. Marbury and the fans acted like they won the NBA Finals that night, but I can’t blame them. After that game, Eight-Year-Old Me thought Minnesota escaped the cellar of the West for good and became a contender.

Here are some highlights of that game:

Even though this season’s Wolves and the one of ’98 were looking to put years of rebuilding behind them, not much was alike in regards to what actually happened during their games. The crowd last night was mostly dead and so was I. The gravitational pull of recliner left me with no urge whatsoever to stand up and pass time between dull moments by exercising. I chose instead to stare blankly at what appeared to be a payment plan for college loans, while other times I scrolled Twitter and online discussion forums about visual snow. It even took me midway through the second quarter to realize the last time I saw Minnesota host a team chasing its third championship was when I was four feet tall. In 2002 I was glued to the PlayStation 2 when the Lakers paid themselves a visit, and I was playing online poker both times the 2011 Lakers won at the Target Center.

Like the enthusiasm, the result of the game wasn’t close to what it was like in ’98. A youthful Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury had the luck of playing a Bulls squad missing Scottie Pippen while last night’s Heat were at full strength and Minnesota was missing Kevin Love. If that sounds like a recipe for a blowout, you would be right. LeBron and Dwyane Wade ended the Heat’s two-game losing streak by doing LeBron and Wade things. After their 21-point victory, Wade video bombed LeBron, giving an accurate summary of the game:

That’s what I’ll remember most about last night. Neither lasting memory from the Timberwolves playing host to the ’98 Bulls or ’14 Heat were highlights from the actual games.

After watching Stephon Marbury celebrate Minnesota’s victory over Chicago by heaving the ball into the stands, I celebrated by shooting hoops in my basement and pretended I was Kevin Garnett with my newfound energy, banging a ball against my head and pretending to be a seven-foot freak of nature. 16 years later, 24 Year-Old Me lounged in the recliner long after the Heat mopped the floor with the Love-less Timberwolves. The time I should’ve spent trying to get back into shape, or anything really, was instead wasted wondering if Wade would ever videobomb LeBron while dressed as an elf. I dozed off shortly after, waking up four hours later and tweeting in my foggy, half-asleep daze about the need for an all-you-can-eat French fry buffet.

For more Timberwolves memories, check this out.

Remembering Latrell Sprewell as a Timberwolf

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Photographed by: Jeffery A. Salter

Ten years and two months ago, I was a 14-year-old geek sitting in the backseat of my father’s pickup truck. My father drove my family and I back from our annual summer vacation from Wisconsin while I blasted Metallica in my CD player and read the Star Tribune. That was when I learned about the trade that sent Latrell Sprewell to Minnesota.

Some of my earliest memories involving the Timberwolves came from those situations, reading newspapers in the backseat of the trucks my family took our road trips with. One other memory was nearly 20 years ago when I tried to read about Isaiah Rider’s drug abuse. I say tried reading because, despite the effort, it was pointless. I was only five years old and, looking back, I mispronounced so many words, especially names of players in NBA Live 95

I could only hear my father’s version of the story about Rider, which happened to be filled with “bad words” as I looked at the picture of his mugshot in the newspaper. This is the guy that won the slam dunk contest, I thought, he’s really good and his name reminds me of riding bikes but he does drugs and my father hates him. It was my first of several experiences with pessimism in Minnesota sports. I cried.

Eight or nine years later, the Timberwolves landed Sprewell in a trade. Sam Cassell was also traded for, but Sprewell stuck out far more. One of the most volatile players of the 90s, the face of the New York Knicks in the early 2000s, and now…a Minnesota Timberwolf? It remains one of the most strangest Timberwolves acquisitions of my lifetime. Perplexed about the trade, I asked myself why and if it was all a joke. It was as if one of the most popular girls in my school wanted to date a pale geek like me. It wasn’t too good to be true, but rather too cool to be true.

Back then, I had a fascination with high-profiled players who were enigmas. Their inconsistent performances on and off the court, despite immense talent, may have left something to be desired but it’s what both intrigued me and drove my father crazy. Rasheed Wallace was my favorite, but Sprewell was right up there. Stephon Marbury was at the bottom, but the Wolves got Terrell Brandon and, in the summer of 2003, Sam Cassell to erase memories of a young, rising point guard who didn’t want to play in Minnesota.           

We know how everything ended for the 2004 Timberwolves. It was a hell of a ride that fell just short, but Kevin Garnett became the NBA’s MVP. Sprewell was also everything I thought he would be: the dreadlocks, scowl, streaky shooting, and fast break dunks that gave flashbacks of cherry picking with him in NBA Live 98. It was all there that season.

I can’t say the same for 2005, the year the championship parade would be held in Minneapolis as Stephen A. Smith once predicted on national television. It was the most disappointing season of my memory, starting with the infamous quotes about Sprewell turning down a 3-year, $21 million contract because he had family to feed and ending with the Timberwolves missing the playoffs to Memphis and Denver, the latter team the Minnesota handled in the first round in 2004

Sprewell had the worst season of his career and hasn’t played another game since. I couldn’t believe he came to Minnesota and I couldn’t believe the way he left. My father did, only because he experienced a tumultuous departure so many years before. I recently asked him if he still remembers Rider.

“Pain in the ass,” he says. The frustration in his voice and immediacy in his response made me laugh. It’s like Rider’s and Sprewell’s troubles that drove him crazy so many years ago happened only yesterday. Their stays in Minnesota were short-lived, to put my father’s complaints about them in the politest way possible. 

Maybe that’s true, but Sprewell in particular is a player I reminisce about because of how fun 2004 was. He gave at least one memorable season rather than none at all, and the “I’ve got family to feed” incident is something I joke more than complain about because it’s so ridiculous it could only come from Sprewell himself. He was part of the best of times and the worst of times, and though he could’ve left on better terms, so could’ve several other notable players in Minnesota sports. He wasn’t the first to leave not-so elegantly and he won’t be the last, as is the case for every city owning a professional sports team.

The Timberwolves’ 2006 season wouldn’t be any better for my father. Ricky Davis would be traded to Minnesota. I couldn’t help but complain too, but only because the news of Davis’ arrival wasn’t as weird, confusing and exciting as when another polarizing scorer came to town 30 months earlier.

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