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Shawn Marion firmly believes that he is a pioneer and one of the founding pieces of today’s dynamic game.

As such, he considers this resonating influence he made in the NBA as the main testament of his proudest regard to his 16-year professional stint in a recent Q&A interview with Sam Gordon of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“I can honestly say I changed the game. I was a big part of changing the game, what we’re watching right now,” Marion said. “Small ball. Positionless basketball. It was challenging, of course. I wasn’t on board with it at first. I’m 6-foot-7, 230 pounds. You’ve got me guarding 7-footers. That wasn’t an easy adjustment. But I did it. We did it. It is what it is now. It’s what everybody’s doing now.”

Marion entered the association that was being dominated by the towering and legendary frontcourt cagers of the game like Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Garnett, but he was able to withstand the competition and dominate in his own way using that hybrid, hyper-athletic and rare playing style.

The retired four-time All-Star was an unseen, exceptional force and a double-double machine — perhaps the most underrated player of the NBA’s 2000s era. At the height of the revolutionizing ‘Seven Seconds or Less’ timeline of the Phoenix Suns, Marion was famously operated by coach Mike D’Antoni as the primary multi-faceted engine and the defensive ace of the franchise’s high-octane, run-and-gun offensive system to anchor the spectacular showmanship of two-time MVP Steve Nash and the skillful explosiveness of Amar’e Stoudemire. 

In nine years of a mainstay as a Sun, he was able to compile an astounding regular season average of 18.4 points, 10.0 boards, 2.0 assists, 1.9 steals, 1.4 blocks and 48.1 percent shooting in 37.8 minutes of play across 660 games. Up until now, Marion remains glued to the franchise’s Top 5 leaderboards in various statistical categories (h/t Basketball Reference) such as career win shares (93.2), value over replacement player (38.7), and box plus/minus (4.2); as well as in total regular season marks for points (12,134), rebounds (6,616), steals (1,245), minutes played (24,948) blocks (894), field goals (4,879), three-point field goals (652), and double-doubles (343).

Marion, who played for four more teams in his career including the Dallas Mavericks wherein he won his lone championship in 2011, boasts an elite distinction for himself as the only player in NBA history besides LeBron James with 17,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 1,500 steals, 1,000 blocks and 500 three-pointers registered. And while he wasn’t able to obtain any All-Defensive selections throughout his career — a shocking, yet factual info amid his untiring defensive workhorse approach — he is still widely considered as one of the most talented and versatile defenders the game has ever seen who was capable to defend multiple positions, from boldly holding his ground against Duncan and Nowitzki to exerting his full effort in hopes to contain the scoring supernova of Kobe Bryant at the perimeter.

While the introduction and the extent of adaptation of the positionless play to modern times is widely being credited to the emergence of the Golden State Warriors dynasty, Marion is still considerably deserving to receive his well-deserved flowers for serving as an important component of basketball reform today. And while some fans are still ridiculing his unorthodox shooting technique, the real one still has that greater and appreciative notion that ‘The Matrix’ was truly ahead of his time.