Before Game 6, Dallas Mavericks forward Shawn Marion walked through the bowels of the Rose Garden toward the locker room. As he passed a reporter, Marion broke into a wide smile.

'What up, baby?' Marion said, offering his fist for a bump. 'I like that shirt, man.'

Marion went on to play a critical role in the 103-96 win that eliminated the Trail Blazers from the NBA playoffs 4-2 in the first round. In 33 minutes, he scored 16 points and played tough defense on whichever man he was assigned to guard.

After the game, Marion stood by his locker, dressed in jeans, a plaid button-up shirt, yellow lens sunglasses and an enormous gold Rolex watch that looked as if it cost about as much as a run-of-the-mill Corvette.

While the TV cameras were on him, Marion was absolutely politically correct, speaking in a quiet voice.

'Coach made it a concept to get me a few plays,' Marion said, of his offensive success. 'Everybody was really trying to make the concept to move the ball, and we just were able to get a couple easy things going.'

When the TV cameras left and it was just two or three reporters with recording devices surrounding him, Marion's voice became louder, and he gave a glimpse into how he really feels about life and basketball.

The first question posed to Marion after the cameras left was if it felt good to win the series and alleviate some of the pressure that had been placed on the Mavericks.

'What pressure do we have?' Marion asked. 'Everybody was counting us out anyway, wasn't they? Ain't nobody giving us any credit as it is. We just got to go play ball.'

Marion smiled at the reaction to his candid answer.

'You like that don't you?' he asked. 'I like it, too.'

Marion was then asked how good it felt to hold off the Blazers' furious fourth quarter run in Game 6, given that Dallas sometimes doesn't get much credit for its heart or toughness.

'You know what?' Marion said. 'There's always going to be doubters. It is what it is. That's part of life, man. I'm going to be judged. We going to be judged.

'We athletes. We going to be judged the rest of our lives every time we step one foot out of our house. So at the end of the day, I don't give a (expletive) what you think. I'm a soldier! I come to play. Every time I lace the shoes up, I come to play. That's all that matters.'

As Marion and the reporters began laughing, so did Dallas center Brendan Haywood across the locker room.

'You're a solider?' Haywood asked.

'Hey, I want to say something else,' Marion said. 'But I ain't going to say it.'

Haywood gave Marion a look.

'Not like that, though,' Marion said, laughing harder. 'Not arrogant.'

When everyone was done laughing, Marion returned to his train of thought.

'But seriously,' he said. 'Everybody got something to say about everything we do.

'Regardless of how we dress, how we look,' Marion added, looking down at his Rolex, 'what we doing, what kind of car we driving, all of this. But at the end of the day, man, we just put the pants on like everybody else. Do we not? Do we not?'

According to Marion, being a professional athlete is not as glamorous as the Rolex watch would indicate.

'(Basketball) is a fun game,' he said. 'But at the same time, it's hard. Sometime you've got to switch places with a professional athlete. Especially one who everybody really knows. We can't go under the radar. It's kind of hard to be a normal person, dressed down (as) a normal person.

'There are some benefits. But at the same time, I talk to people all the time. A lot of people wouldn't want to switch places with us. Some of this stuff we deal with, ya'll wouldn't want to do it.'

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