Hair Today, Gold Tomorrow?
Posted: Aug. 11, 2004
You may have noticed, Shawn Marion was sporting a new look during Team USA’s exhibition games leading up this weekend’s start of the 2004 Olympics. The Suns’ forward was seen from Cologne to Istanbul slashing to the basket and ripping down rebounds with a red, white and blue sweatband over a clean-shaven head.
A sign of solidarity with his similarly shaved and head-banded Olympic teammates? A way of toughening up for his first quest at glory on the grandest stage of athletic competition? Another in a litany of hairstyles the six-year NBA veteran has displayed?
“Oh, no, I didn't have any choice but to cut my hair,” Marion said Wednesday afternoon. “The clippers… once you use the clippers overseas, they just cut a little too high, the blades are a little too crazy. I was just trying to cut my hair, trying to cut it down, but I ended up cutting it down too low, so I had to go ahead and cut it all off. I didn't try to cut it off. It just happened like that. No, I'm not a bald person. I don't do that.”
Bald person or not, what Marion has done is come off the USA bench and provide the all-around game that has been responsible for placing him among the top small forwards in the NBA. Competing in his first Olympics, but third international competition, the All-Star has averaged 7.2 points and 6.2 rebounds in the squad’s six Olympic tune-up games.
Despite a loss to Italy and some close wins over Germany and Turkey, Marion feels the team has come together as a unit under the direction of Head Coach Larry Brown and is ready to go for the gold.
“I’m just doing what I can,” he said. “It’s a team. It’s not about individual accolades. It’s a together team and that’s what we’ve got to do to be successful.”
Although teammate Amaré Stoudemire has not had the same problems with hair grooming Marion has experienced, forces both within and beyond his control have limited “STAT’s” participation in the exhibition schedule.
The 2002-03 NBA Rookie of the Year was one of three Olympians held out of the team’s game against Puerto Rico on July 31 after reporting late to a team meeting, then was sidelined with food poisoning. In total, Stoudemire saw action in just two games, averaging three points and one rebound.
“Yeah, he got a little sick,” Marion said. “But, he’s all right. He practiced (Wednesday). He’s all right.”
Because of his limited playing time, Brown has said that Stoudemire and Charlotte rookie Emeka Okafor will not see much action, while Marion will remain a key reserve in the rotation.
After finishing their warm-up schedule with an 80-68 win over host Turkey’s National Team Tuesday, Team USA has remained in Istanbul to complete the final touches on their training regimen before heading to Athens for Friday’s opening ceremony.
“It’s been cool, man,” the Matrix said from an Istanbul shopping center Thursday afternoon. “We’re just out here chillin’ right now. I’m in the mall, just trying to get some DVDs and get back to the hotel. We’re going to do a little cruise today. That’s about it, really. We had practice this morning, so that’s all we’re doing.”
Preceding their arrival in Greece was the "Queen Mary 2," the largest and fastest luxury ocean liner in the world, and home to the U.S. Olympic basketball teams for the next three weeks. Security issues have prevented officials from confirming the team’s stay on the massive floating residence, but it has been widely reported that both the men’s and women’s USA squads will be housed on the $800 million vessel.
“I heard it’s going to be really nice,” Marion said of the 14-deck luxury liner. “That’s all I really know about it. It’s nice and big.”
Months of preparation and weeks of training begin to culminate Sunday when the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team takes on Puerto Rico in the opening game of Olympic competition.
“I’m just chillin’ right now, just taking it all in,” Marion said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and you’ve got to seize the moment.”
Let the games begin.