Tribeca 2019 – Review: A KID FROM CONEY ISLAND Is An Honest Portrait Of A Legend

A Kid From Coney Island is rooted in the career of basketball star Stephon Marbury. Yet this documentary about the now overlooked player doesn’t limit itself to the confines of the sport. Instead, this documentary serves as a rally for anybody that feels as if they can’t break into the limelight. For those who feel as if it’s impossible to get out of the neighborhood that holds so many back. “If you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you going” is spoken by Marbury’s brother, and this creed rings true of the entire documentary. Marbury made it out of Coney Island, but there’s countless others who didn’t, and even more who are there now, and this documentary is a reminder on how Marbury made it out, as well as how spiritually never leaving made him better than ever.

From a young child, Marbury was destined for greatness. His entire family played basketball, and it was written in the stars that a Marbury boy would make it to star status. While some of his brothers got close, none made it to the level that Marbury did. A product of not only his environment, but also all of his brother’s best talents, he had a drive like none other. Growing up alongside legends like Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and more, Marbury lived and breathed basketball. Everyone around him saw it before he even got into high school, and they knew what was coming. Now, it was a matter of making sure Coney Island didn’t swallow him whole. And in all honesty, that’s one element of the documentary that should have been explored a bit more.

The environment of Coney Island at the time is definitely touched upon, yet it leaves plenty to be wondered. As drugs became much more prevalent, dealers would fight for territory. Yet no matter what, they would always protect the athletes. There was a sense of camaraderie among all those doing whatever they could to escape Coney Island. Because while A Kid From Coney Island is about a single kid who made it, this documentary doubles for the others who didn’t. The film definitely delves into how Coney Island was essential to the development of Marbury’s game, but not much past that. While that would not be much of a problem normally, this documentary was touted to be about family and environment, so just a bit more would have elevated it a bit.

Character/ Subject of Film: Stephon Marbury. Photographer: Andy Chan.

And when Marbury signed to Georgia Tech for college, the true test of skill would come into play. The weight of Coney Island was on his shoulders, because now he had to make it, if only to prove that it could actually be done to those who couldn’t. To get the Marbury name into the league would be a triumph for all his relatives. The game of basketball is just a means to an end, and this end was necessary to rally the onlookers. It’s utterly inspiring to see Marbury at such a young age become drafted and fully come into his own in the league. For those aware of his skill, highlights of him and Garnett will put a smile on the face of fans. And for those who are not familiar, this film will prove the level of talent the young player had, even in high school.

But of course, the NBA is a business, and sometimes, that business gets the best of people. When money is brought into the equation, many relationships can crumble, and in the instance of Marbury and Garnett, it simply couldn’t work. A Kid From Coney Island does a great job at painting a full portrait of Marbury in this regard. He was not perfect by any means, and this documentary points this out. He was stubborn at times, and his meltdowns and attitude are shown for what they are: a massive negative influence on the later half of Marbury’s career. There is much speculation to be discussed on what trajectory he would have had if he stayed in Minnesota, but by the end, it doesn’t matter much. For while this documentary shows both the peaks and valleys of his career, Marbury is shown to be better than ever when the credits roll.

From creating a cheap alternative to Jordan sneakers to never missing a street league game in Coney Island, Marbury had a love for the game of basketball unlike any other. Marbury is shown to be aware of his opportunity making it out of Coney Island, but he always returned to give back. Speaking with and working for the youth of his neighborhood, he was extremely courageous and what is shown speaks volumes to his character. Marbury is a very unique player, and an even more interesting person, so this documentary is perfect to examine both sides of the man. And as unique as Marbury is as an individual, there will always be a kid from Coney Island, and this documentary shows Marbury as a role model for them all, just as he promised all those years ago.

A Kid From Coney Island celebrated its world premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.

By Alex Papaioannou

Born and raised in New York. I've always loved all things pop culture, but my true passion lies within film. And the only thing that I love more than watching movies is writing about them! Some close runner-ups are: food, the Yankees, and hip-hop.

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