On March 29, Stephon Marbury announced his plan to provide his hometown of New York City 10 million masks to aid COVID-19 health care providers and first responders.
Speaking on video from China, Marbury, who grew up in Coney Island, Brooklyn, said: “I’ve lost loved ones to this invisible monster. I have a cousin who died yesterday due to the coronavirus. My family is dealing with a very difficult time. So I’m here to do all I can do to help. I’m worried about New York, I’m deeply concerned.”
According to the New York Post, Marbury’s contact in China would sell the former Knick 10 million crucial N95 masks “at cost”, which comes to $2.75 each. The masks will be disseminated 2 million at a time over a five-week period, according to the New York tabloid.
How good a deal is that in these times? Well according to Bob Ivry and Brandon Kochkodin of Bloomberg, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said suppliers were trying to sell masks for a whopping $7.50 each, well above the $2.75 price tag Marbury is receiving.
Marbury’s goodwill might come as a surprise to some, as he was often portrayed as a selfish malcontent during his NBA playing days, but his generosity off the court has been consistent for years.
Currently a coach for the Beijing Royal Fighters, Marbury won three titles with the Beijing Ducks, and was honored with a statue and a Marbury Museum. It was his philanthropy and community work, however, that led to him being named one of Beijing’s Top Ten “Model Citizens”, the first foreigner to achieve the honor.
In 2018, Marbury received a Pioneer Award recognizing significant contributions to the U.S.-China relationship.
While with the Knicks in 2007, Marbury donated $4 million to New York City police, firefighters, EMS and teachers.
“If it saves more lives, I’m down for that”, Marbury said at the time. “As far as making a difference in that manner, I feel compelled to do that. After 9/11, and all the families that have lost loved ones, it was a big hit to the city and to the world”
His philanthropy and compassion was not limited to New York. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Marbury pledged $500,000 to Katrina victims. An emotional Marbury announced his pledge like this: “You see little babies floating in the river. It’s amazing. It’s amazing these people are still just going. You complain about the little things. But we’re just so fortunate to breathe and walk knowing all of this is going on.”
Although he lives in China now, Marbury said yesterday, “Brooklyn is my home. Coney Island is my foundation of who I am today.”
It always has been. Marbury routinely invested in Coney Island. This included “Starbury GiveBack Days” where he would bring two 18-wheelers full of free clothing, sneakers and other merchandise. In 2006, Marbury, while remembering his own humble Brooklyn beginnings, established the “Starbury One”, a revolutionary $15 sneaker that Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, called “the biggest business story of the year.” Despite business growing pains and initially going out of business, Marbury helped inspire other basketball stars and celebrities to make their own reduced-price sneakers and fashion lines.
“The big picture is not having a $200 pair of sneakers when your mother’s income is $15,000,” Marbury said at the time. “When you walk into a store, you are not being held hostage any more.”
The former All-Star is applying the same “people over profit” logic to the pandemic after learning of New York State’s lack of masks and their current astronomical price.
Marbury isn’t the first or only athlete stepping up in this moment of global crisis. Whether it’s Lionel Messi or a slew of NBA players, they all deserve huge props. Just remember that whether you knew it or not, Marbury has been this same guy for years.