The Phoenix Suns made an announcement that has gone down very well with fans on Monday, with the news that both Shawn Marion and Amar’e Stoudemire will be going into the organization’s Ring of Honor this upcoming season.
This is the Suns’ own Hall of Fame, with both players also getting their jerseys retired. When you think of the “seven seconds or less” era of Suns basketball, no players outside of point guard Steve Nash encapsulate that period better. That team was unlucky not to win a championship, and will always have a special place in the hearts and minds of fans.
With the status of both players now secured forever with the franchise, should Marion also one day go into the NBA’s Hall of Fame as well?
It is a difficult case to break down, not least because Marion was never at any point the best player on a championship level team. He made a living defending at an elite level, and while there are certainly fans who appreciate that, “The Matrix” never got all of the credit he deserved as a two-way force early in his career because he became known as a high level defender.
It may come as a surprise to some, that Marion currently has a better chance of getting into the Hall of Fame than Stoudemire, at least according to basketball reference. Marion’s career was longer and he of course won a championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. But the peak of “S.T.A.T.”, however short-lived, was certainly better than that of Marion.
Returning to those defensive abilities, and Marion was the best on-ball defender for large periods of his time with the Suns, the franchise who drafted him, between 1999-2008. Once he moved on to the Mavericks, that was again the case, and he was instrumental in that organization winning their first ever championship. Words that still sting Suns fans to read to this day.
During his time with the Mavericks, he was the third or fourth best player on a title winning team. That in itself is not enough to get into the Hall of Fame, but when you return to his spell with the Suns, the case becomes easier to make. In his nine seasons there, Marion impressively averaged a double-double, with 18.4 points and 10 rebounds per game.
This despite playing as a forward, and before the time when small ball basketball was all the rage, as it is today. Ironically Marion would have been an ideal player to slot in at the five for some minutes because of his skill set. He’d also be an incredible asset on the 2023-24 roster, but that is not going to help his case at this point.
What does help are the 12,134 points he scored in Phoenix, the fifth most in franchise history. By the time Marion retired in 2015, he had amassed 17,700 points. The 85th most points scored in the history of the league. Number 84 on that list? Magic Johnson, at 17,707. To crack the top 100 scorers of all time, when you weren’t predominantly one for a lot of your career, is impressive.
What has also been forgotten is the fact that, despite having unconventional shooting form, Marion was a competent shooter from behind the arc. He was never consistent over a whole season, and the percentages got progressively worse after leaving the Suns. Still, while with the team that drafted him, Marion shot 34.2 percent from deep across those nine seasons.
By today’s standards that is only ok, but for the time, it was more than enough when you factored in the defending of elite scorers every night as well. It might be a stretch to call him a “3-and-D” prototype, but in his third and fourth years in the NBA, Marion shot 39.3 percent and 38.7 percent from 3-point range respectively. That fourth year, he took an eye-popping 4.5 attempts per game.
That was the first year Marion was named an All-Star, and in total he was named to the midseason exhibition four times. All of which came while he was with the Suns. This is the part of his game that has been forgotten to time, and because of how he is most well remembered, winning with the Mavericks. Marion was extremely athletic, and could score in many ways.
Suns fans love him, and they certainly got his best years in the league. Marion goes down as one of the more unique players in league history because of his size, build, shooting form and ability to wrap all manner of opponents up. He didn’t get that Matrix nickname for nothing, and it was because of his versatility on the court.
When you think of some of the players who have gotten into the Hall of the Fame in the past, there really is no reason Marion shouldn’t one day soon make it in himself. He was ahead of his time, and in today’s NBA would surely have garnered a max contract to ply his trade somewhere.
Save for a brief spell with the Toronto Raptors (27 games) in 2008-2009, and a 57 game stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers to close out his career alongside LeBron James in which he averaged 4.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in 19.3 minutes of action, Shawn Marion was a winning player. He’ll never be forgotten by the Suns, and he should be held in equally high regard around the entire NBA.