Stephon Marbury has proved that he could play on the highest level in the NBA, however, according to himself, he found real life and peace in China.
A foreigner in China, Marbury quickly became a star, an unrivaled fan favorite.
It should be noted that other former NBA players such as Steve Francis and Tracy McGrady never had any success close to Marbury’s, in China.
Marbury has a lot of plans in China, which include one day becoming the coach of China’s national basketball team, according to Gazzettenet.
“I plan on living here for the rest of my life,” Marbury said. “I think they respect me enough to be able to give me the opportunity.”
Marbury found his groove in Beijing, leading his team, Beijing Ducks Ducks to two Chinese Basketball Association championships. He is the team’s on-court leader — the organization has even erected a statue of him in front of its arena.
Marbury has capitalized on the opportunities China offers to foreign basketball players and other athletes capable of adjusting to the considerable cultural, linguistic and culinary challenges of life in China.
He admits there’s big difference between the level he plays on in China, and the NBA, but the feelings are different.
“I don’t make nowhere near the money that I made when I was playing in the NBA,” Marbury said, “but I’m way happier, so I mean, what is that to say?”
A big part of Marbury’s Chinese appeal has been his willingness to embrace local culture and make himself accessible to fans.
He rides the Beijing subway with a backpack and headphones, posing for photos with people he meets along the way. He dines at local eateries, and digs into the same simple meals as his Chinese teammates.
Marbury has been a vocal supporter of Guoan, Beijing’s beloved local football team, and studied the graceful martial art of tai chi. He even took a stab at learning Chinese before a knee surgery threw him off his lessons. He’s also active on Weibo, the ubiquitous Chinese version of Twitter.
He wrote a column — “Starbury News” — in the China Daily newspaper, and if he had any negative feelings about China, he kept them to himself.
“Marbury was seen as a loner in America, but he’s completely changed his image here in China. He’s shown huge interest helping both his team and young people generally,” said veteran Chinese sportscaster Xu Jicheng.
Fans have also connected with Marbury. When he scores, each basket is celebrated by an MC and echoed by fans, and Marbury can still score. The fans say Marbury is the reason they come to the games.
A college standout at Georgia Tech, Marbury was a first-round pick in the 1996 NBA draft by Milwaukee, but traded to Minnesota. He also played for New Jersey and Phoenix before joining the New York Knicks amid high expectations that were never realized. His last stop in the NBA was with Boston in 2009.
Marbury was a 2-time All-Star in the NBA, averaging 19.3 ppg, 7.6 apg in 846 career NBA games (816 started).
With his NBA options becoming limited, Marbury decided in 2010 to head for China in hopes of jump-starting his career.
“I was, like, if I go back to America I’m going to get killed by the media. I’m done. This is it. My career is done, my life is over with,” Marbury said.
Along the way, he has relaunched his Starbury sportswear brand, whose logo is tattooed on his shaved head. This fall he was featured in a live musical production using his China experience as an allegory for overcoming hardship.
Marbury is one of dozens of foreign players in the CBA, which allows teams to play two non-Chinese players at a time for a total of six quarters per game. Some have found the success that eluded them in the U.S., others did not. Other NBA All-Stars have given China a shot — including Metta World Peace, Tracy McGrady, Steve Francis and Gilbert Arenas, with varying degrees of success.
Marbury believes he can play another two or three years but no matter what happens on the court — or with his coaching ambitions — he plans to keep China at the center of his life and career.
“I am forever indebted to this country for them helping change my life and my basketball career, and how I’m viewed in the world of basketball,” Marbury said.Follow @exnbadotcom
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