“My goal is to finish strong with a team that can use some veteran leadership,” Marbury wrote. “I’ve been through a lot of situations in the game of basketball. I know I can help the younger generation like my vets (Terry Porter, Mike Williams, Doug West, Stanley Roberts and Googs) helped me.”
As to the question of precedent, look no further than Bob Cousy, the Hall of Fame point guard of the Boston Celtics. A small, brash, slick-passing point guard from New York City (sound familiar?), Cousy was coaching the Cincinnati Royals in 1969 when he decided he would lace up his sneakers for another stint as a player more than six years after he had retired on a day called the Boston Tear Party.
The decision resulted in a public squabble between Cousy and Red Auerbach. Auerbach, the general manager of the Boston Celtics, contended that the team retained Cousy’s rights as a player, but Cousy insisted the comeback was just a promotional stunt, so the Celtics should have no objection to his playing for Cincinnati. Eventually, a trade was worked out, sending Cousy’s rights to Cincinnati in exchange for Bill Dinwiddie, a backup forward.
Leading up to his debut as a player-coach, Cousy discussed the decision to come back with Robert Lipsyte of The New York Times.
“I’m 41 years old and I’ve sat out six and a half years and this game has become one of sustained running,” Cousy said. “I’m not really going to do anything significant out there.”
Ever the competitor, Cousy then walked that statement back, telling Lipsyte: “Well, I have kept myself in shape. I have enough pride in the past not to want to make a jackass of myself.”
The difference between Cousy and Marbury, of course, is that Cousy was a beloved and respected player whose final game before retirement earned him his sixth championship ring. Marbury, despite flashes of brilliance and a career scoring average of 19.3 points a game, was a polarizing figure, at best, and did not make it out of the first round of the N.B.A. playoffs until his final season, when he was the 10th man for Kevin Garnett’s Celtics. Despite all of that, the argument could certainly be made that Marbury, who has been…