When former NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury accepted a contract to play in the Chinese Basketball Association in 2009, he was a few weeks removed from an odd and at-times frightening online meltdown, and a half-decade removed from basketball relevance. Based on the scope of his career arc at the time, it was just assumed that Marbury would grow sick of the expectations, and flame out overseas as he had during his fitful runs in Minnesota, New Jersey, Phoenix and New York.
Instead, 2 1/2 years later, the man’s a champion. Marbury dropped 41 in the fifth game of the CBA Finals (the picture at that previous link is fantastic), leading his Beijing Ducks to a 4-1 series win over the defending champion Guangdong Hongyuan. This is the first title for both Marbury and the Ducks. And, as was the case when Steph ascended to the CBA Finals two weeks ago, he broke down with tears of joy.
“This has been incredible, it has been an incredible experience,” a tearful Marbury said after winning his first major league championship. “This shows what this team is made up of, everyone stepped up and everyone played their role. We have been blessed as a team.”
It’s been a remarkable turnaround. Steph can still be a little needlessly childish at times, but most were well within their rights to assume that Marbury’s time in China would either go as recklessly as his time in Minnesota, New Jersey, Phoenix or New York would; or that he would flame out anonymously, as was the case during his short stint with the Boston Celtics in 2009. It isn’t even as if Marbury was given a quick start to relish and keep him enthused, because his previous two CBA teams failed to make the playoffs.
Marbury clearly is aware of his station, though, and loves the country. The big minutes and shot attempts help, we’re sure, but Marbury got those in Minnesota, New Jersey and Phoenix and still wanted out. He’s comfortable, now, with a team and a league and a culture that embraces him. And, it’s interesting to note, that he can be a winner along the way.
Beijing Ducks’ rookies Zhai Xiaochuan and Zhu Yanxi also had big roles in helping Beijing win the championships. Now … back to back?