Last night's amazing performance by onetime Phoenix Suns star Shawn Marion in the Dallas Mavericks' series-clinching win over the Oklahoma City Thunder was bittersweet for local fans.
|The Matrix, aka Shawn Marion|
Marion scored a season-high 26 points in the intensely fought game, and did a terrific job defensively on one of the world's best players, the taller and younger Kevin Durant.
Dallas surely wouldn't have won the game if Marion hadn't been so good on both ends of the floor.
We have fond memories of "The Matrix" and his remarkable athletic abilities, his ability to dominate a game with his slashing speed and agility, his rebounding prowess, and that strangely effective little push-jump shot of his from fifteen feet and in.
Marion was the Man for the Suns for a time, a four-time All-Star who was beloved by Phoenix fans for his hustle and enthusiasm on the floor.
His stats over his eight-plus years with Phoenix were outstanding: The 2005-06 season was probably his best, when he was the sole NBA player ranked in the top 20 in points, rebounds, steals, blocks, field-goall percentage and minutes played.
Marion's departure from Phoenix via trade to the Miami Heat in February 2008 came after months of bad vibes with the Suns' management, specifically team owner Robert Sarver.
Sarver declined to renegotiate Marion's big-time contract, which led the player to complain publicly of a "bad marriage" with Phoenix.
Marion ended up in Dallas before the start of last season, where he was forced after a time to accept a reserve role. Coming off the bench was new for the 12-year veteran, but as this season progressed he slowly became increasingly effective in the role.
Marion was brilliant during crunch time last night, scoring seven points in the last four-and-a-half minutes, including a steal and breakaway slam dunk to make it a two-possession game in the last 60 seconds.
After the game we mused about what could-have-been--about how close the Suns came to winning the NBA championship in the 2006-07 season with Steve Nash, Amar'e Stoudemire and Marion in full flower.
It's a trip that The Matrix is going to the NBA Finals, while the respective seasons of Nash and Stoudemire have been over for weeks.
Such is life in the National Basketball Association.