"We are the stabilizers," Stephanie says of the Marbury women. Then she adds, "Whether we have a house on the hill or in the projects, whether we go to the NBA or not, this is already a success story."
Still, every Marbury stands vigil, each in his or her own way: Stephanie, calling Stephon's dorm room every day; Marcia, monitoring the news wires and TV feeds at the station in Beaumont; Mama, playing the good cop, Papa, the bad; Dog and Pup and Jou-Jou, watching with their third eye. And Zack, taking notes, just in case the dream must be deferred one more time—passed on down to the last in the line.
It's rare that Stephon's parents and six siblings can all gather to watch him play, but when Georgia Tech takes on UMass in the Meadowlands just before Christmas, the family has a chance to sound its urgency in chorus. Tech is struggling against a team soon to be ranked No. 1 in the nation, and Stephon is on his way to a 7-for-20 night.
"Shoot that, Steph! This is where you take over, Steph!" It's Eric, in the second row, bellowing at his brother as the Minute-men push their lead into double digits. To reach Stephon, Eric's exhortations must wash dissonantly over the coaches and players on the Georgia Tech bench.
Stephon shoots from the outside and misses.
There's a whoop as Stephon makes a steal and scores. "What I tell you?" It's Donnie now, right behind Eric. "The steal! I know my little brother!"
But soon the Jackets' 75-67 defeat is certain. The Marbury men caucus. "Drew," says Don Sr., "he don't pass the ball to Stephon!"
Caught between Surf and Mermaid, between the pounding of reality and an abiding, alluring fantasy, Coney Island's Original Not-Quite-Famous Marburys shout as they hold their breath.