This is part three of the SB Nation NBA theme days, in which we were asked to discuss the "most hyped" player or players in Nets franchise history. Read more about it from around the team sites here!
It's hard to figure out who is the "most hyped" player in Nets franchise history, really. You can look a the draft picks the Nets made over the past 25 years, many of which came in the Lottery: Derrick Coleman, Kenny Anderson, Ed O'Bannon, Kerry Kittles, Tim Thomas, Kenyon Martin, Eddie Griffin, etc. -- all of whom came with a certain degree of hype, none of whom delivered on bringing a championship to New Jersey; with Martin and Kittles playing integral roles in the Nets two title runs, but did they ever, really "live up to the hype?"
That's probably something we can spend all day debating.
This season there is plenty of hype around the 2013-14 Nets, who are essentially built to win now and who have a "title or bust" tag to live up to. That's hype, for sure, but it's tough to examine since we don't yet know the end result. Are they the "most hyped?"
With this exercise, we were asked to examine a player or players who brought with them a ton of hype and who either did or didn't quite meet expectations.
In a sense, Stephon Marbury, who absolutely brought the hype, both lived up to it while, in a sense, at the same time failed to meet the expectations that come with the acquisition of a franchise player.
When Marbury was acquired by the Nets in a three-team trade, he was 21 years old, an All-Rookie first-teamer and, not to mention, already a legend in New York City before even lacing 'em up in the NBA. The hype continued and escalated even further when the Nets traded for him as they actually introduced him as "the best point guard in the National Basketball Association." When, as Chris Brousard points out, future Hall of Famers John Stockton, Gary Payton and Jason Kidd were in the league and in their prime.
I get it, to a point. Part of the parade is insisting that the superstar you traded for is not only an upgrade, but he's the best possible upgrade you can make. That was Marbury, that's what the Nets bought -- after all, when the Nets traded for him, he was a 21-year-old NYC legend in the making averaging 17.7 points and 9.3 assists per game as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. But was he the best point guard in the NBA at the time? No. He wasn't.
History had something to do with they hype as well. When the deal went down, the New Jersey Nets franchise had made the playoffs just once (1996-97) in six seasons and hadn't won a playoffs series since 1983-83. But Marbury was the future, or he was supposed to lead them into the future, as...the "best point guard in the NBA."
During his tenure with the Nets -- two-and-a-half seasons -- the Nets made zero playoff appearances. None. A small sample size, sure, and not necessarily an indictment on Marbury -- at least not completely -- but zero playoff appearances isn't a good look.
To his credit, Marbury made the 2000 All-NBA Third Team and was named a NBA All-Star reserve in 2001. Still, the Nets failed to make any playoff appearances. Again, some blame, but not all. The Nets were relatively young during his tenure, with Kittles, Keith Van Horn and eventually Kenyon Martin all still coming into their own -- for reference, Johnny Newman scored the second most points for the 2000-01 Nets -- but that doesn't excuse the early summers.
What followed was the trade. The "the trade." The trade that sent Marbury to the Phoenix Suns for Jason Kidd who Nets GM Rod Thorn at the time called, wait for it, "the best all-around point guard" in the NBA. A distinction, as you'll recall, that was handed to Marbury from these same Nets just two years prior.
Kidd, along with Van Horn, Kittles, Martin and others, went to the NBA Finals in the following season; followed by yet another NBA Finals appearance a year later.
It's a fact that the 2001-02 Nets were a better team than any of the Marbury-led Nets teams. But it's also a fact that Kidd in his prime was exactly what this Nets team needed. The hype was there, the expectations were met. Much of it was style of play and the execution of leadership from the best point guard in the NBA that Marbury -- at his best -- never exhibited.
Marbury, had he stayed in New Jersey, would have never led the Nets to the NBA Finals in back-to-back years. Never. Would they have made the playoffs? Yeah, sure. Win a series? Eh. Win the Eastern Conference Finals? Nope.
Where the wires get crossed is that, of course, Marbury was no Jason Kidd. But, he did carry with him the same hype, according to the Nets. A hype that Kidd lived up to -- and then some -- and Marbury never even came close to touching. Yes, he was a reason -- oftentimes the only reason -- to attend games, a highlight reel and, maybe most importantly, the piece that got the Nets their most-beloved player in the franchise's history. That's his legacy. That's what Nets fans will laud him for; not for winning basketball games or changing the team's culture but for being the piece that got them Jason Kidd.
You know, the same Jason Kidd who has to deal with Hype 2.0 in the 2013-14 season. And if history repeats itself, he should have no problem handling the hype. (Which, wait, would make P.J. Carlesimo Stephon Marbury? Or maybe that's Avery Johnson?)