NBA Draft 2020: Former All-Star Shawn Marion reflects on his journey from junior college to top 10 pick

Shawn Marion was a well-known name among basketball fans during his 16-year NBA career. However, it took quite the journey for the former forward to reach that point. Before Marion was an NBA champion and a four-time All-Star in the league, he was a junior college prospect at Vincennes University in Indiana. Vincennes is far from an NBA-producing powerhouse, but Marion was able to play well enough there to earn some Division I looks. He ultimately transferred to UNLV, where he played for a single season before declaring for the 1999 NBA Draft.

When draft night rolled around, Marion didn’t have to wait long to hear his name called by commissioner David Stern as the Phoenix Suns selected him with the ninth overall pick. He went on to play for the Suns for nine seasons, and later suited up for the Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks and Cleveland Cavaliers over the course of his lengthy career. Marion’s journey to the league was a unique one, and he reflected on it recently on CBS Sports’ “Draft Day Memories: Presented By Jeep.” 

“I took the Junior college route, which was awesome,” Marion said. “The program I decided to go to at Vincennes, it actually prepared me for Division I or the pros. The time when you’re deciding to go pro, typically most players will sit down with a coach, possibly some agents, because they help transition you into that pro role. I had great representation that put me in front of all these guys, and anybody that was supposed to be slotted in front of me [in the draft], we’re going to work out against each other. I destroyed everybody at my workouts. So everybody who was supposed to be in front of me, nah, it wasn’t happening.” 

When Marion was drafted, it represented the realization of a life-long dream, and the fact that the Suns selected him made it even more special as he had a gut feeling that he would be playing in Phoenix. 

“Based off of how things happened prior to me getting drafted by Phoenix, I felt like it was destined for me to be on the Phoenix Suns,” Marion said. “In junior college we used to go to a tournament every year in Mesa, and we used to go to the Phoenix Suns’ practice facility. I remember me going on the main court and grabbing a ball, taking a 3-point shot and knocking it down. I was like, ‘I’m gonna be playing here.'” 

As a player from humble beginnings, Marion’s first All-Star appearance was understandably memorable for him, especially since it was also Michael Jordan’s final All-Star Game, and Marion found himself matched up on Jordan in the closing moments of the contest. 

“One of the highlights of my career definitely was my first All-Star. It was my first and [Michael] Jordan’s last. I had some great moments out there playing against him and trying to stop him the last play in the game. They got some great shots of it. Even though he hit the shot on me, we still won the game because Kobe [Bryant] got fouled. We still won. It was just great, man. It was everything you could picture of your first All-Star. It doesn’t get any better than that.” 

An important message for unheralded up-and-coming players in Marion’s story: If you work hard enough, you could eventually find yourself going toe-to-toe with the game’s greats. 

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