CBA (Chinese Basketball Association)

From NBA bad boy to the mainland’s main man – watch the story of Stephon Marbury’s remarkable reinvention in China

An action-packed eight years have made for excellent viewing – on and off the court

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 February, 2018, 12:21pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 February, 2018, 3:28pm

Stephon Marbury’s basketball career ended in tears. Just not the kind people in the NBA expected it to when he moved to China eight years ago.

The 40-year-old signed off from a 22-year pro ball career with 20 points in 38 minutes to help his team to a 104-92 win over Jiangsu Nangang Dragons – his last action nailing a three-pointer.

The man known as Starbury retires a hero for his on-court exploits, with three Chinese Basketball Association titles for Beijing Ducks to his name, but it is off the court where his time in China has been most extraordinary.

Eight years ago Marbury was the first star player to leave the NBA for the Chinese Basketball Association and the only one to stay.

When he arrived in China in 2010 to play for the Shanxi Brave Lions, nobody could have foreseen what was to come and no one would have expected him to be here for all that time.

Three teams, several hundred games and thousands of points later the former NBA bad boy, a player whose 14-year career in the big league ended after he had fallen out with his hometown New York Knicks and then rejected a contract from the Boston Celtics – among a wider series of bizarre incidents – would become the most successful import in all Chinese sports and arguably the most famous foreigner in the country.

As odd as that sounds, that’s exactly what happened.

Marbury went from lighting up the Eastern Conference to being the torch-bearer for basketball in the East – or as he calls it “The Far Eastern Conference” – and his adventures have been every inch as unusual as when he broke down on a live stream eating Vaseline back in his NBA days.

The last of the much-vaunted 1996 draft class to still be pounding the boards, he has a strong claim to be the next of them to enter the basketball Hall of Fame.

To be continued..... @balldontstop you started this. #starbury

A post shared by (@starburymarbury) on Sep 17, 2017 at 9:26pm PDT

Starbury has continued to make headlines in China, albeit for very different reasons to those in his younger days.

It all started with his first CBA Championship with the Beijing Ducks, which earned him a statue outside the team’s Wukesong Arena.

And then he got another one outside their training ground.

He ended up on bank cards.

He relaunched his cut-price shoe brand, Starbury.

He was given the key to the city of Beijing for winning the side’s second CBA championship. He was also named one of the capital’s 10 model citizens that year.

The Chinese basketball court cleaner whose work ethic propelled him to fame

He got his own museum. Yao Ming doesn’t even have a museum in China.

He became a Beijing Guoan fan way before most people were into the Chinese Super League.

He wore a tux on court.

His face ended up on stamps you could actually use to “mail packages anywhere in the world”.

Can begin to tell you how Good God has been to me. Not only a statue and museum but a stamp collection with post cards to go with it!— I AM PEACE STAR (@StarburyMarbury) 28 November 2016

He embraced bike sharing.

‘It’s the basketball hall of fame not the NBA hall of fame’: Stephon Marbury might be quitting hoops but is still calling the shots

He won a best new actor award for playing himself in his feature film debut, My Other Home. Playing himself.

He also starred in the hit musical I Was Marbury.

Mentioned as a potential China coach as early as 2013 by media and fans, the possibility has been touted by Marbury himself, who wants to give back to his adopted home. He might come to pay for doing this to Yao Ming.

Now the head of the Chinese Basketball Association, Yao would be Marbury’s boss at the national team and he hasn’t forgotten his “most embarrassing moment” in the NBA – not least because Shaquille O’Neal pointed it out when they were on ESPN ahead of their Hall of Fame inductions.

Stephon Marbury wants to work with China national team and add to ‘basketball foundation’ in his adopted home

And the time he sang on the Spring Festival Gala. In Mandarin. To an audience of somewhere close to a billion.

He was involved in a CBA All-Star Game in 2012 that was a pretty bad advert for the league.

He bought a Chinese Arena Football League team, the Beijing Lions.

He won China and he documented it all on social media.