How Stephon Marbury’s “Starbury” brand made affordable basketball sneakers for all

One of the NBA's best in the early 2000s, Stephon Marbury used his star power to create his cost-efficient sneaker brand "Starbury".

The New York Call and Youth Explosion - Starbury Giveback Day
The New York Call and Youth Explosion - Starbury Giveback Day / Gary Gershoff/GettyImages
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The fourth overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, Stephon Marbury established himself as one of the league’s elite point guards in his prime. Marbury’s career accomplishments saw him earn a spot on the All-Rookie First Team in 1997, two All-Star appearances in 2001 and 2003, and two All-NBA Third Team selections in 2000 and 2003. 

Marbury is definitely an unsung hero in NBA history, but his decision to enter the world of sneakers should also be commended. Marbury recalled the struggles of not being able to afford luxury sneakers as a child growing up in Brooklyn, NY. 

Inspired by his own experiences and wanting to offer a shoe that people from all economic backgrounds could afford, Marbury partnered with American retail chain Steve & Barry’s to introduce his signature brand Starbury, named after a moniker given to him during childhood.

"Starbury" gave people an avenue to purchase basketball sneakers, at a fraction of high-profile brands sold at major retailers.

Marbury has long been involved in activism, with many instances of generous philanthropy, and this character translated to the Starbury vision. Marbury made it a mission to eliminate any chance of his sneakers being produced in forced labor or 'sweatshop' conditions. The Starbury brand still had its products manufactured in China, however, some were critical of its claims of being a social justice brand.

Nevertheless, Starbury found initial success through its mission statement of spreading brand awareness by word-of-mouth, rather than paying for expensive advertising. Starbury models were largely influenced by the silhouettes of more prominent sneaker brands. Some examples include the "Starbury Crossovers" modeled after a Nike Air Force One, and the "Starbury Cyclones" modeled after a New Balance 574.

The Starbury brand largely focused on its sneakers, however, they also offered a multitude of clothing items, all priced at $10-$15 or less. Though Starbury was a minor league competitor to that of a Jordan brand, Marbury had several NBA colleagues support his brand, including Steve Francis and Ben Wallace. Unfortunately, Steve & Barry's shut down operations in 2009 after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, taking down the Starbury brand with it.

Despite that, it wasn't the end of Starbury as we knew it as Marbury announced the brand's return in 2015. but by then he was no longer an NBA staple and had become a basketball icon in China. New Starbury models were introduced, continuing to look like budget versions of other major sneakers, but soon enough, Starbury's became defunct once again. Think what you will of Starbury, but it was certainly a breath of fresh air to see a famous athlete giving back to the community with their brand and platform.

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