When Stephon Marbury live-streamed video of himself crying and eating Vaseline in 2009, the polarizing two-time NBA All-Star provoked a wide range of reactions. Many viewers were confounded, some laughed at his strange behavior, and some even posted satirical spoof videos to mock Marbury. Other viewers felt real concern because something seemed genuinely wrong. Was this video an unprecedented public cry for help?
Over the years, Marbury has claimed that his zany video could be explained because he wanted to start his own TV network and, later, that he ate the Vaseline because he was pursuing a home remedy for a "sore throat." Surely, skeptics could agree, there had to be more to it than that.
In an upcoming segment on HBO's Real Sports, Marbury, now 37, reveals that his life was spiraling out of control as his NBA career was coming to a screeching halt. His wife, Latasha, remembers Marbury staying in bed all day eating Fruity Pebbles, isolating himself after his on-court struggles with the Knicks, the death of his father in 2007, and the unraveling of his "Starbury" discount sneaker company.
“When everything went on with the Knicks, and, you know, my father passed on, the [Starbury] brand was-- it was basically losing life slowly," Marbury tells HBO Real Sports' Carl Quintanilla. "And I was watching it. And I think that was hurting me more than seeing my basketball career going in the direction that it was going. ... I was trapped in my thoughts. I was trapped in how I felt about how I felt I was treated. I was trapped with decisions that I made.”
Marbury admits now that he was "definitely" clinically depressed and "suicidal" at that point in his life.
“I wanted to die," he remembers. "I wanted to kill myself some days. I did. ... It wasn't about basketball. It started to become about me. Because I was that depressed and I was that sick.”
The Coney Island product now views that time in his life as rock bottom. In the five-plus years since, Marbury has remade himself as a basketball icon in China, signing to play in the Chinese Basketball Association in 2010. He has earned All-Star honors and led the Beijing Ducks to the CBA title. His play was even acknowledged with a statue.
Marbury took plenty of heat for failing to accumulate postseason success in the NBA, and he views his accomplishments in China as both professional validation and as a good reason to remain abroad.
"To be told that you're a loser, that you can't win, and that you can't do this, and you can't do that," Marbury tells Real Sports. "Then to come someplace without speaking the language with the cultural barriers, to be able to accomplish that-- that goal was, is beyond anything. ... I left one place where they was basically hating me. And I come to another place where they love me? I'm like, ‘Why would I want to go back to a place where they hate me?’ I mean, that makes no sense to me.”
HBO's Real Sports will air its Marbury episode on Jan. 20 at 10 p.m. ET.