Marbury's China dream
Updated: 2011-03-24 07:54
By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)
Former NBA all-star guard is ready to invest the rest of his career here after enjoying the respect and love of loyal and crazy local fans, Sun Xiaochen reports.
"I love China as a country; I love the progression that it's making and I love the direction that it's headed. It's more than basketball. It's because how it fits my life and how the youngsters here understand and respect what I gave," said Marbury, who was released by his last NBA employer, the Boston Celtics, in 2009 and then joined the CBA's Shanxi Zhongyu last January.
"For the rest of my career, anything I have to do with basketball will be invested here in this country. And I believe the CBA will evolve into one of the best leagues in the world," Marbury said.
Before heading to China, Marbury, the Milwaukee Bucks' first-round pick at 4th in 1996 NBA draft and then traded to Minnesota, had been struggling on the bench to earn the coach's trust while representing his hometown team, the New York Knicks, and the Celtics, during his NBA career's final phase.
The two-time All-NBA Third Team guard also faced a tough situation off-court while playing for the Knicks as the local media portrayed him as a "lone wolf", who played selfishly and failed to get on with teammates and coaches. The Brooklyn, New York, native felt abandoned in his hometown.
However, Marbury has shrugged all that off and believes he has finally found somewhere he truly belongs.
"At home everything is about money and selling newspapers. No one wants to read anything without gossip, so you have partial facts and then things that were made up.
"I think it's different in China. Media here can basically give the audience the truth of what's going on. I really began to see that 'Wow this league is really changing; this can really be something'."
The unwanted NBA vagabond took less than two months to convincing Chinese fans and media of his star power as he boosted last-ranked Shanxi into the media spotlight while the team also sold out 15 games. His solid performance, averaging 22.87 points, 5.93 rebounds and 9.53 assists per game, lifted Shanxi province's capital city, Taiyuan, a small spot on the national map, into the domestic hoops' limelight.
However, Marbury's honeymoon in Shanxi ended abruptly when the team announced it wouldn't offer him another contract on Nov 24 last year, just three weeks before the new season's tip-off. Every team had signed its limit of two non-Asian imports, so Marbury was left without a side to play for.
The team attributed the "divorce" to Marbury's request for "some unacceptable clauses", and his "clear ambition to market his 'Starbury' sneaker business over playing games". He rejects those charges.
"I didn't break up with them (Shanxi), they released me. The way it ended was solely on their part. I was prepared to go back there," said Marbury, who cherishes the "respect not money" ethos in China.
However, the situation improved for Marbury when new CBA team Foshan Longlions reached him just before he was about to depart for the US and the two sides inked a one-year contract on Nov 30.
Marbury has found the 'marriage' with Foshan to be a good one as he led the squad to 11 victories this season, a marked improvement on last year's four wins.
"Going to Foshan was a new step in my life in China. I am happy to play with a young team, which was down last year but revitalized and started to believe it could win this year. It feels perfect to help build something," he said.
After playing a whole CBA regular season and starting again at the gala All-Star Game over the weekend in Beijing, Marbury, who won last year's all-star MVP, said witnessing the league's development and the young players' growth was something that has inspired him to stay in China and maybe even seek a job as a national team coach.
"I do mean that," Marbury said of his coaching ambitions.
"As a point guard, I have a lot of skills to give and I would love to pass them on to the kids in China through many ways - TV, lectures and basketball camps. I would love to see a guard from China go to the NBA."
Having finished this season, Marbury said he was "talking' to Foshan about a contract extention, but promised to come back and play next season - no matter for which team - after spending some time with his family in the States.
Marbury's plans also include finding a house for his wife and children in Hong Kong where "they loved to stay when they came to China this year".
Off the court, Marbury sees a huge market for his sneaker business.
"I would never have known there were so many kids playing 'ball here; even in some rural areas. The number of hoop fans in China almost equals the total population of America. Creating sneakers or casual shoes for kids here is a big step for my brand," said Marbury, who will soon launch "Starbury" online stores and stick to the "low-price" principle to benefit more children.
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