Since 2010, former NBA All-Star point guard Stephon Marbury has basically been the Bill Russell of the Chinese Basketball Association, leading his Beijing Ducks squad to three CBA finals titles while being one of the league’s most popular players. Marbury is so popular there that the city of Beijing built a statue of him in front of the Beijing Olympic basketball arena after the Ducks took home the CBA title in 2012.
After one title and three seasons in the league, the guy gets his own statue. Even Michael Jordan had to wait until after his third championship to have a statue built. Oh yeah, and there’s also a Stephon Marbury museum. And a Stephon Marbury postage stamp. And a Stephon Marbury musical! It’s called I Am Marbury and it’s spectacular.
Now, Marbury is officially one of China’s newest permanent residents as he was granted a green card on Monday which leaves me to wonder what took so f****** long. According to the Washington Post, only 5,000 of China’s roughly 600,000 foreigners have been bestowed this honor so it’s a big deal and he’s the first basketball player to receive this honor.
It’s crazy to think that Marbury really hasn’t been a relevant NBA player for about a decade and that it’s been 13 years since he was last a NBA All-Star in 2003. It’s crazy to think that teenagers probably have no idea who this guy even is. Think about that. A 16-year-old — a person who can legally operate a motor vehicle in the United States of America — probably doesn’t even know who Stephon Marbury is unless they somehow remember watching him play (or not play) for the Knicks when they were like six.
For whatever reason though, ’90s Stephon Marbury is super nostalgic. I still remember Marbury as one of the 20 players on the “Next Generation” poster from 1997 that hung on my wall. I got it in one of those Scholastic NBA books from school, remember those? This is the Marbury I remember.
— Rare NBA Pictures (@RareNBAPics) January 5, 2015
— Adam Reilly (@reillyadam) January 12, 2013
Somewhere in between then and now, Marbury became vilified and gained the reputation of being one of the league’s most selfish players. He forced his way out of Minnesota in 1999 by demanding a trade, got the “Starbury” logo tattooed on his head, and of course infamously refused to take the court at the end of his disastrous tenure with the Knicks. It was during his time with the Knicks in 2006 that he was classified by the Daily News as the “most reviled athlete in New York.”
That’s part of what makes Marbury so nostalgic. Like Penny Hardaway, Marbury is the classic case of “what if,” but in this case it is attitude instead of injuries that provide the “what if.” It’s pretty remarkable that someone as skilled as Stephon Marbury only was a NBA All-Star on two occasions (i.e. as many times as Brad Miller). As a starter, he never made it out of the first round of the playoffs while the Timberwolves led by Kevin Garnett couldn’t quite get over the hump with a revolving door of point guards. Garnett and Marbury could’ve been a Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp-like duo had they remained teammates for more than two seasons, but Marbury never allowed that to happen.
The other part? Marbury played with major swag. He of course was on that SLAM cover and also on the cover of NBA Ballers. He was mentioned by Jesus Shuttlesworth in He Got Game as one of the great New York City legends to make it to the NBA from Coney Island. He had a street ball game but — unlike so many of the other ones who did — could actually play at an elite level.
He also once did this to Vlade Divac:
So here’s to Stephon Marbury, the newest permanent resident of China and a super nostalgic NBA star. We can only hope for more CBA championships and statues and museums and musicals in Marbury’s future. That’s all “Starbury” ever wanted.