In this #ThrowbackThursday we take a look back at the career of Castors Braine’s 2m02 tall Power Forward Tony Marion.
Born in Zaïre in 1963 Marion came over to Belgium at a very young age as the family settled at Neder-Over-Heembeek. Inspired by his brother Christian, he quickly picked up playing basketball and joined Racing Club de Bruxelles, a precursor of the current Royal IV Brussels club.
Although it became clear early on that Marion had both the skills and the necessary love for the game (playing at least 5 games each weekend), becoming a pro didn’t seem a very realistic option in those days and so, after finishing his sports-studies at Arlon he started working for his brother’s company. Until one day he met André Renaud, the sponsor and president of the Royal Castors Braine basketball club who convinced Marion to join the club in 1985 as they were competing in second division at that time.
In his first season with the club Marion immediately helped them to the title in Second Division and the promotion to First Division for the 1986-’87 season. It was the start of an incredible era for Castors Braine with head Coach Michel Voituron and their newly constructed Gaston Reiff gym… and for Marion as well who was offered and signed his first professional contract. In that first season in D1 Marion – along with players like Kerry Trotter, Oron Gilmore, Bernard Tirtiaux & Henri Berlemont – helped Braine do what no one expected: finishing 2nd in the league in the regular season with a 19-7 record and passing Mariandenne in the playoffs to reach the finals where Racing Maes Pils Mechelen would eventually prove too strong as they won the series 3-1. It was an unexpected excellent start at the pro-level for the club and for Marion as well with averages of 13.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.2 spg & 1.2 bpg in his first pro-season. In the following 5 seasons the surprise quickly faded as Braine turned into the ‘Poulidor’ of Belgian Basketball, practically each time reaching the Playoff Finals, only to eventually lose their series against either Mechelen (1986-’87, 1988-’89, 1989-’90 & 1991-’92) or Oostende (1987-’88).
In those 6 seasons at Braine in First Division, Tony Marion recorded his best numbers in the 1989-’90 season when he averaged 19.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.1 spg & 2.3 bpg. By then Tony’s lanky and wiry frame had also become a very recognizable fixture of our Belgian Lions and alongside other Belgian basketball legends such as Ronny Bayer, Guy Haerbos, Rik Samaey, Eric Struelens, Daniel Goethals, Jacques Stas & Danny Herman he helped them reach the European Championships twice (in 1991 and 1993).
Meanwhile, back in the national competition, Marion traded Castors Braine for Spirou Basket Charleroi where he would compete from 1992 until 1995. Unfortunately the ‘Poulidor’ curse seemed to have followed Marion to Charleroi as in each of his 3 seasons with them they each time managed to reach the Playoff Finals, but again his usual nemeses of Mechelen and Oostende stood in his way and each time it was Charleroi who ended up with the short end of the stick, losing the series 3-2.
Those were some of the most unforgettable thrilling series who have marked my early teens with their fully packed gyms, a crazy orchestra going all out and plenty of excitement all around. And yet, it must’ve all tasted quite bitter sweet for Marion, who by now had appeared in 8 Playoff Finals but had yet to lift up the actual Championship trophy. Unfortunately his hunger remained unsated in the next couple of seasons as well as Marion returned to Castors Braine where he would remain for 3 more seasons. Castors’ glory days were waning however, frustrated by the lack of a title the club had over-invested and by the 1997-’98 season they were forced to declare bankruptcy as they eventually finished the season in last place with a 3-23 record.
The by now 34 year old Marion then returned to Spirou Charleroi where he finally reached that ultimate goal and was able to lift up not only the Championship Trophy as Charleroi won the Playoff Finals against Telindus Antwerpen 3-1, but also the Belgian Cup trophy after defeating Oostende in a triple overtime game! With his goal finally accomplished Marion could now start looking ahead to life after basketball and with 14 seasons of D1 basketball under his belt he finally decided to hang it up in 2000. After his retirement he became a coordinator for the club of his heart, Castors Braine, where he currently enjoys the successes of their women’s team who are absolutely dominating the Belgian competition and where he hopes to maybe one day be able to realign a Castors Braine team in the Men’s First Division as well.