I don't remember how I felt when Shawn Marion joined the Mavericks. 2009 was a year marked by transitions for me and the multi-team trade that brought Marion to Dallas barely made my head turn. Yet, here was Marion, an outstanding and athletic player joining the Mavericks. That doesn't happen every day.
2009 was also a transition period for the Mavs. Three years removed from a Finals appearance, the team had a sense of desperation about it. Dallas lost in the first round twice following the trip to the Finals. Avery Johnson was fired as the head coach and Rick Carlisle was brought in. In his first year at the helm, Carlisle guided the team to the second round of the playoffs. This wasn't enough, though. The Mavericks needed to make a splash lest they be viewed as a floundering team that had missed its opportunity.
Dallas completely retooled their roster. Only Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Josh Howard, and Erick Dampier remained from the 2006 team. Now, Marion was thrown into the mix.
What Mavericks fans likely remember Marion most for before he came to Dallas, if they are old enough, is the tenacious nature with which he guarded Nowitzki while with Phoenix. He was a pest with hands flailing, grabbing, checking and frustrating Nowitzki. To cap matters, Marion possessed the most awkward shot. Each time that he released the ball with a flip of his wrist and found nylon only served to further Mavs fans' consternation.
Marion fit right in. He started all 75 games he appeared in and averaged 12 points and 6.4 rebounds in his first season in Dallas. This was just the beginning.
The following season proved to be Marion's, and the Mavericks', crowning achievement. With Marion already solidified as a core member of the team, Dallas embarked on what would become a historic season. Marion averaged 12.5 points on 52 percent shooting and also grabbed 6.9 rebounds a game. His numbers dipped slightly but that's because Nowitzki became the alpha and omega of the offense. However, he was the third leading scorer as the team marched towards its first NBA Championship.
Over the years, it's become apparent that Marion can't be solely be defined by numbers. It's his versatility that has made him invaluable on the court. In his five seasons with the Mavs, he has been called on to defend the best players in the league -- point guards and power forwards and everything in between. He does so without hesitation. Off the court, Marion has proved to be a great locker room presence and is always good for a quote.
Beyond that, the man has style. That goes a long way in Dallas. Marion always dresses sharp and his sock game is unquestionably great. Even with all this style, he doesn't miss an opportunity to mingle with the everyday people as he has been spotted at Double Wide.
The Matrix endeared himself to his adopted city, and that's what makes the future without him a painful one.
Dallas has almost filled its 15 roster positions and Marion is on the outside looking in. Now 36, Marion became a free agent this summer. His game has declined over the years but he was still a rotation contributor last season. Remaining in Dallas is a longshot at best. For everything that Marion has meant to the Mavericks, nothing can be done that will ease the nostalgic burden he will leave behind.
2009 seems like a lifetime ago. In some respects it is. Dallas is in the midst of another transition, again revamping their roster in an attempt to reignite the franchise and have another deep playoff run. Tough personnel decisions have been made in an attempt to lower the average age of the roster. Though, Marion may not have a place with the franchise going forward, he has left an indelible mark on its history. The Championship banner that hangs in the rafters of the American Airlines Center is tangible proof. I cannot pretend to be able to list Marion's contributions to the Mavericks. There are far too many.
A banner in the rafters bearing his number would be a nice place to start, though.