While Shawn Marion technically only played one season for UNLV before going pro, that hasn’t stopped “The Matrix” from becoming an adopted hometown hero. Already in the 11th year of his NBA career, Marion (who now plays for the Dallas Mavericks) is a four-time All-Star with a career average of more than 18 points and 10 rebounds per game—impressive stats that earned him his sci-fi nickname from TNT sports analyst Kenny Smith.
But despite the professional accolades, Marion hasn’t forgotten the town where it all began for him. “That’s the thing about playing in Vegas,” he says. “It’s almost like playing in the NBA; you never know who to expect at a basketball game.”
Also top of mind for the 6-foot-7 forward: his mother, Elaine; he founded the Shawn Marion Foundation, which provides college scholarships to single parents, in reverence to her. “Since I was raised in a single-parent home, I was seeing a lot of kids coming from [the same situation],” he says. “I thought, Why not help these families?”
This June Marion plans to combine his two off-court interests— philanthropy and poker—for a celebrity fundraising tournament in Las Vegas. “I’ve played in Chris Webber’s [poker tournament]; I played in Greg Anthony’s this past summer,” he says. “I’d like to play in some more tournaments, but I don’t have a casino close to me.”
Instead, he’ll just have to return to Vegas as often as he can. “My mother still resides there, so I come in every so often,” says Marion, “but it’s too hot!”