#Tribeca2019 Film Review 'A Kid From Coney Island': Family, Spirituality, China, And Stephon Marbury's Love of Basketball (Video)Read Now
A Kid From Coney Island, the latest from the directorial duo of Chike Ozah and Coodie Simmons, made its premiere this past weekend at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. The "Spotlight Documentary" details the life journey of NYC basketball legend and NBA all-star, Stephon Xavier Marbury, aka Starbury. In many ways the film follows a typical rise, fall, and redemption arc. But that's just the framework by which stories are so often told. It's the themes within his rise, fall, and redemption; that make this film stand out. Trusting someone to tell your life story is not an easy thing. But that is what Marbury did, when he connected with producers Nina Yang Bongiovi, Forest Whitaker, and Jason Samuels. They in turn brought Ozah and Simmons on board and what began was a journey of discovery. Through loss of family, spirituality, and a desire to tell his truth, these men formed a bond that is evident in the film.
We begin at the beginning, the Surfside Housing projects, in the Coney Island neighborhood off Brooklyn. Stephon is the sixth of Mabel and Don Marbury's seven children. Stephon's older brothers', Eric aka Spoon, Norman aka Jou-Jou, and Donnie aka "Sky" were all basketball players with varying degrees of success. Basketball was the Marbury Family's game. There is a line in the film where Stephon's older sister, and surrogate mom, Stephanie says "this round ball can take you anywhere around the world if you let it." From the jump Stephon really never had a choice. Basketball was his destiny. Like any little brother, he wanted to do what his big brothers were doing, and that was hoop. He learned the game from his brothers and his father and became the best of them all. In NYC everyone knew about Don Marbury's basketball playing sons, and one of them was going to make it to the NBA.
Stephon was an AAU star with the famed NYC Gauchos, and teammates with Felipe Lopez. Another hoops legend, who coincidentally, has his film The Dominican Dream debuting at the Tribeca Film Festival as well. Marbury went on to further grow his legend at basketball powerhouse Lincoln High School, culminating in a PSAL championship and being named New York's "Mr. Basketball" in 1995. He then played one successful season at Georgia Tech where fellow NYC hoops legend, Kenny Anderson, once played. But, everyone knew Marbury wasn't long for college and made himself eligible for the 1996 NBA Draft.
The day of the NBA draft was the realization of a lifelong dream for the Marbury family. Stephon was selected 4th by the Milwaukee Bucks and subsequently traded that same evening to the Minnesota Timberwolves for his fellow draft classmate, Ray Allen. The two, forever linked in hoops lore, and aided by Allen's role in Spike Lee's He Got Game set in Marbury's Coney Island neighborhood. But, the trade to Minnesota also meant Marbury would team up with his friend and fellow prep school star player, Kevin Garnett. In his first two seasons in Minnesota, Marbury and Garnett would lead the Timberwolves to consecutive playoff appearances and it seemed like they were on the verge of a dynasty. Of course, all ascension isn't linear and not every team is supposed to ascend. During his third season, Marbury was traded to the New Jersey Nets, and while he would become an All-Star and make a couple All NBA teams in New Jersey and Phoenix, things began to change for the basketball star.
The film doesn't go into depth about what, if any, changes were going on in Marbury's life outside of commentary from his family. While useful and helpful, it is biased. ESPN's Stephen A. Smith is presented as an objective third party, but it's hard to ascertain if this was Smith the journalist, tv character, or neutral observer. The directors are clear that this is not a basketball story, but rather a journey of discovery. This is true. But basketball is the conduit by which that discovery happens. It is clear that during his stint with the Knicks from 2003-2008 something was going on inside Marbury. The film shows bizarre behavior from him on social media, he was in a public feud with then head coach Larry Brown, he was banned from the team's facilities and showed up to road games and sat court side anyway. Again, in the film his family talks about the losing over the years taking its toll and Smith chalks it up to a diva athlete, acting out and voicing displeasure. You can't help but think there was much more there, and this was a missed opportunity in an otherwise excellent film.
After that rough tenure in New York and a finishing out the 2008-2009 season in Boston, Marbury was offered a one year deal to return, but he declined. Battered and broken, Marbury landed in China and resurrected his basketball career. He's won championships, been named an MVP, has a postage stamp and a museum in his honor. Quite the turnaround from an NBA career that many will say failed to live up to the lofty expectations. It seems as though Marbury had to leave the familiar and immerse himself in the unfamiliar to find love, compassion, and care.
It started with a family's dream. The sixth of seven children made that dream into a reality. Through the ups and downs of life, the failures and successes, he found a spiritual peace and rediscovered his love for the game of basketball. That's the Stephon Marbury story A Kid From Coney Island.
Flip the pages to hear from directors Chike Ozah and Coodie Simmons about working with Stephon and hear from Marbury himself at the Tribeca Film red carpet premiere.