Former NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury isn’t ready to hang up his light-up basketball shoes just yet.
After parting ways this past spring with the Beijing Ducks — the Chinese Basketball Association team on which he became a legend on the other side of the world — Marbury announced on Instagram that he signed a one-year deal to play “my last and final season” with the crosstown rival Fly Dragons.
“I have to put on for the city no matter the team,” he posted on social media Thursday. “It’s a different mission and vision over here in the JING. The fans said stay so I’m staying. They said ‘we will love you no matter where you go’ It’s hard to leave that type of love. Thanking God for another contract!”
Marbury, 40, won three CBA championships in six seasons on the Ducks, but he turned down opportunities to serve as a player-coach or an assistant coach at a reduced salary in 2017-18. The franchise is entering a rebuilding phase and preferred not to pay up for a veteran to fill one of its two foreign-born roster spots, and Marbury wanted one last chance to compete for a championship.
So, they chose to end a relationship that made Marbury the most beloved American in CBA history and the league’s first foreign-born player ever to receive a “permanent residence card” from the country. During Marbury’s tenure, China created a postage stamp, a bronze statue, a museum, a musical (starring Marbury as himself) and a feature-length documentary on his life in his honor.
It’s a bond like few we’ve ever seen in basketball and a stunning turnaround for a player whose NBA career flamed out after he smoked a joint on camera three months after ending the 2008-09 season with the Boston Celtics. Marbury did not rule out returning to the Ducks as a coach in the future, and joining the rival Fly Dragons stayed true to his promise: “No matter where I am, I am a Beijinger.”
When you know better you do better. When you understand you can plan. It's a process when from the projects. No selling drugs just real hugs
— I AM PEACE STAR (@StarburyMarbury) July 18, 2017
Fellow American and former NBA player Shavlik Randolph, who averaged 18.4 points and 9.8 rebounds for the CBA’s Liaoning Flying Leopards last season, will join Marbury on the Fly Dragons in 2017-18, and together they will try to bring the franchise its first-ever title. And if that happens, the only honor left for China to bestow upon him, it seems, would be to name him President of the People’s Republic.
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