Basketball star says he has Beijing in his heart

Updated: 2015-04-21 07:36

By Sun Xiaochen(China Daily USA)

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New York-born basketball star Stephon Marbury has shrugged off the sensation caused by his application for a Chinese "green card", saying he has long made Beijing his home away from home regardless of his residence status.

Marbury, who led the Beijing Ducks to three Chinese Basketball Association championship titles in four years, made his commitment to spending the rest of his life in China official by applying for a permanent residence permit on Friday. The announcement triggered a massive amount of discussion among fans on social media.

The former National Basketball Association All-Star has become hugely popular in China since joining the CBA in 2010 after 13 up-and-down years in the NBA.

Basketball star says he has Beijing in his heart

"It's all positive - it's about being able to be recognized in that manner and to be able to have respect from the people," Marbury told China Daily at his apartment in downtown Beijing on Sunday.

The Beijing Public Security Bureau later confirmed on its micro blog that Marbury's application had been received and will be dealt with in the normal way.

If approved, Marbury will become the first overseas athlete to join about 5,000 foreigners who have been granted the permit. The document is issued to individuals who work in China, have longterm investments and have made an outstanding contribution to the country.

Marbury overcame injuries and a skeptical media to lead the Ducks to a third CBA title over favorite Liaoning Flying Leopards last month, and won the Most Valuable Player award in the final.

"I will still feel the same with the card or without the card. I won't feel much different, this is still home for me, this is in my heart," said the 38-year-old US citizen.

His fondness for his adopted hometown is not only in his heart. The Brooklyn native has confirmed his emotional tie with the Chinese capital by tattooing the Chinese characters that spell the phrase "Beijing wang chao", meaning "Beijing dynasty", on his chest.

"This is my last tattoo," said Marbury, who also has his name in Chinese tattooed on the inside of his left forearm. "I understood a little bit deeper when I got this tattoo because it represented the loyalty, the sweat, the pain and all the different things we went through to get what we got (a third CBA championship for Beijing).

"It has a symbolic meaning and it is a positive reminder of what people are capable of if they put heart and mind into it." Despite the superstar status he now enjoys, it was a very different story back home before he began his Chinese adventure.

Public feuds with two coaches - Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas - meant that Marbury struggled while playing for the New York Knicks from 2004 to 2009. He was criticized by fans and the media for not leading the team to more victories.

The warm hospitality Marbury received in China gave him a clean slate and an opportunity to rebuild his basketball career.

He has more than 3.7 million followers on his personal micro blog. He is about to start shooting a movie provisionally titled New Yorker in Beijing based on his story.