It’s been a big month for Stephon Marbury, the high school basketball superstar who parlayed an uneven and sometimes bizarre NBA career into a complete career renaissance in China. Marbury has won three titles with the Beijing Ducks, has a statue of his likeness in the Chinese capital, and earlier this year was the subject (and star, playing himself) of a China-produced biopic:
In September, Marbury — who’s been grinding in the Chinese Basketball Association for the last seven years — announced that he wants to make a final run at the NBA, a victory lap of sorts to cap off his circuitous and undeniably inspiring career arc. He announced it in a lo-fi Instagram video, because that’s where most NBA drama happens these days:
I'm making a #nba come back for the fans who want to see me play my last year as a pro. After hearing so many people say come back I finally prayed about it and gave it major thought. I thought the perfect ending would of been retiring with the Beijing Ducks but it's clear the GM had other thoughts which is fine. My love for the ducks will always be A1 from day 1. I still have a lot of go in me as a player and at 40 being able to play at a high level is a gift. Being able to stay mentally focused and physically fit takes a different type of discipline. I'm motivated to make this the best year of my career as I end a 21 year long journey in the game I love. It's been a blessing to play 13 years in the @nba and this year 9 years in the @cbachina China has groomed my game and my style of play. China made me sharp and consistent. We practice Monday-Wed from 9-11:45 and 3-5:45. Thursday one practice 9-11:45 and Friday-Sat same schedule as M-W. I thought I would die at first coming from the NBA where you can't practice that long before the season starts. Oh and we do that for over 40 days. This way of training can either break you or make you. I'd like to look at it as it made me. So I'm ready and prepared to take on a challenge I once faced but with chips under my belt along with all that has come with winning chips in China. Statues, museum, green card, Honorary citizen, ambassador for the environmental protection bureau, key to the city, only 30 people ever to receive the key to the city of Beijing and MY PEACE something no one can ever take. So with all of these things I feel complete and ready to turn towards the last page of my basketball dairy that I've been writing since 95 when I left Lincoln High. I thank all of the positive energy from all those who showed it throughout my time away from the NBA. Thank you for always keeping it 100. @stephonmarbury_3 @espn @marcjspears @nytimes @nypost @nydailynews @newsday @slamonline #starburymovement #starbuy #loveislove
But that’s not all. China Sports Insider has just reported that Marbury will also keep a foot in the Beijing sports world for the foreseeable future, as he’s just purchased the Lions, “a cornerstone franchise of the fledgling China Arena Football League.” This is American football, mind you — not soccer, which is what football usually means in any place that’s not America.
According to the CAFL’s official statement on the purchase:
The long-time China Basketball Association standout, who has announced that the upcoming 2017 CBA season will be his last, will begin his new career as a professional sports executive with the CAFL in China. According to Gustavus Bass, business manager for Stephon Marbury and CFO of Mabuli Corporation, “Stephon is following in the footsteps of other NBA greats and business/team owners like NBA legend the great Magic Johnson. One day he intends to buy a NBA team or maybe a NFL team. A CAFL team in Beijing is a natural fit for Mr. Marbury. This acquisition demonstrates his commitment to his second home and sports in Beijing. He wants to be a part of the sports scene in Beijing for a long time.”
I’ve always had a soft spot for 马布里 (Mabuli, the Chinese transliteration of his name), and as someone who went to school in Boston — where his NBA career sputtered to a halt in 2009 — and moved to Beijing immediately after, he’s been a strangely ubiquitous presence in my life.
Good luck on this new venture Stephon, and on achieving your parallel dream of “making one of the best basketball shoes ever.”
No relation, but here’s a pleasant tune by Wuhan band Chinese Football to play us out:
Cover image: Vice Sports