Stories from Locker Room: How setbacks helped seal Sean Marks' NBA legacy

NBA pioneer Sean Marks can afford to be philosophical over a professional journey that saw him struggle to rise above a benchwarmer role as a player.

The 2.08m (6ft 10in) centre will forever hold a place in NZ sporting folklore as the first Kiwi to crack the world's toughest basketball league, claiming a championship ring with San Antonio Spurs in 2005.

But over 11 seasons with six different teams, Marks made just 236 appearances, leaving the pine in less than a quarter of his teams' fixtures, while logging only 10 minutes a game - usually less.

Often hampered by injury and unable to carve out a regular spot in rotations, Marks was as exasperated as anyone over his limited oncourt contributions to team successes.

But these days, as Brooklyn Nets general manager, he credits those trials for shaping his career beyond the hardwood. 

"Without a doubt, it was frustrating," he tells Newshubs' Stories from the Locker Room podcast. "You certainly want to be contributing, but at the end of the day, you have to come to terms with what your role is.

Brooklyn GM Sean Marks with NBA draft picks Jaylen Hands & Nicolas Claxton
Brooklyn GM Sean Marks with NBA draft picks Jaylen Hands & Nicolas Claxton. Photo credit: Reuters.

"It's about having honest conversations with these guys, putting my arm around them and being there for them"

"I was fortunate to be the journeyman, and I can look back at those experiences and how that translates to what I'm doing now. I can tell those stories.

"It's certainly helped me in this current role. I've worn many hats, so I can relate to how players feel.

"It's about having honest conversations with these guys, putting my arm around them and being there for them."

At San Antonio, the self-confessed "skinny kid from the North Shore" found himself shackled to one of the game's greatest players - Tim Duncan - on the practice court.

"That just improves your mental toughness and outlook on life," recalls Marks. "And he was happy to share his experiences with the 15th guy on the bench."

He singles out Duncan, Argentinian star Manu Ginobili and Canadian guard Steve Nash as the NBA teammates that helped shape his career the most, with Spurs coach Greg Popovich the wise mentor that guided his personal development.

"I've been so fortunate to play with so many great players," Marks tells Stories from the Locker Room. 

Sean Marks defends Tim Duncan
Sean Marks defends Tim Duncan. Photo credit: Reuters.

"The elite of the elite operate at a whole different level to the rest of us, but the humility that those three in particular show to other teammates, that's contagious."

"[Popovich] has an uncanny way of prioritising what's really important.

"I know for a fact, am I a better basketball player from my time at San Antonio? No question, but I hope I'm also a better son, father, husband through spending those formative years with him."

Listen to the full interview on Stories from the Locker Room

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