Global Times
2013-10-14
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New contract richly deserved as Marbury weighs up coaching options

Global Times (2013-10-14 P22)
By Mark Dreyer
When Stephon Marbury left the US in 2009, he was a laughing stock.
He was widely perceived to be so dysfunctional that, ­despite his undoubted talent, no NBA team would touch him.
Four years later, things couldn't be going better.
Having embraced the Chinese league and its culture since his Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) debut in ­January 2010 - and being warmly embraced by Chinese fans in ­return - the only thing that has stopped Marbury winning the league's MVP award is the rule that prevents ­foreigners from claiming it.
His crowning moment came last year when he led the ­Beijing Ducks to the CBA championship against all the odds, as massive underdogs against a team looking to win its seventh crown in eight years.
He has now been rewarded for his passion and leadership with a new three-year contract, keeping him at the club until 2017. By then he'll be 40 - the age Michael Jordan finally ­retired.
When Yao Ming retired from basketball, the worry was that the sport's popularity would wane. With Yi Jianlian unable to carry the torch overseas, the focus turned to the CBA and while it's no substitute for the NBA in terms of quality, the Chinese league has definitely improved over the past few years.
Marbury should get as much credit as anyone for that ­improvement. He was here long before the NBA lockout forced a few players into ­earning a quick buck while US arenas remained closed and his ­public persona is so different to the one he left behind in the US that Knicks fans would swear you were talking about a ­different player.
Marbury is so popular there is a statue of him in Beijing, but he's stayed humble and has even started on the road to coaching. But like the end of his playing days, it will likely be in China, not in the US. He's already served as an assistant coach for the Beijing team in this year's National Games in China, and has said he would love to coach the national side one day.
It may seem risky to give a three-year contract to a 36-year-old, but Marbury may well transition from player to coach during that period.
Improving Chinese basket­ball is a slow process, but if ­Marbury can improve the ­national team the way he has improved the league, he would prove as popular a coach in ­China as he is a player.

The author is a Beijing-based freelance writer. dreyermark@gmail.com
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