Stephon Marbury is at the center of it all (Sports Illustrated China/ Getty Images).
In America, Stephon Marbury is something of a pariah — "the forgotten superstar everyone remembers." The story in China, where Marbury has played for the last few years, is somewhat different. As a member of the Beijing Ducks of the China Basketball Association, Marbury has been a champion, an emotional leader, and even the subject of a bronze statue. He's the hero he never became in the NBA.
Proving that he's accomplishing things in China that never would have seemed possible here, Marbury has a new role. Against all odds, he's going to be a coach. From Jon Pastuszek for NiuBBall.com (via SLAM):
In an interview on BTV, the 36 year-old guard announced that he will serve as an assistant coach for Beijing as they prepare to participate in the 2013 China National Games. He will work under his CBA head coach Min Lulei, who serves the same position for the Beijing Ducks.
The National Games, which happen once every four years, are completely separate from the Chinese Basketball Association season. As a sort of intra-China Olympics, the National Games pit the country’s different provinces against each other in various athletic events, including basketball.
The two-week competition will start in late August in host-province Liaoning. However, there will be a qualifying tournament in late April for basketball. Guangdong won the basketball tournament in 2009, which was held in various cities in Shandong. [...]
The National Games, though technically centered around athletic competition are the epitome of not only basketball, but sports with Chinese characteristics. With the eyes of provincial governments focused directly on their teams, the Games’ main purpose serves government officials, who can be gain status and be promoted to bigger and better positions if their teams achieve good results. Though the Olympics trump all in terms of importance, the National Games is a major event and one that places great pressure on athletes to perform for the glory of their province.
That last part is important, because it helps explain why Marbury is a useful presence at this event. As one of the most popular players in China, Marbury brings his own level of prestige to any event. So even if he doesn't do much actual coaching, simply having him on the sidelines could build up the reputations of government officials in Beijing. He can be a leader, too, obviously, but his role could be more about image than anything else.
This possibility doesn't demean Marbury — if anything, it makes what he's accomplished in China even more amazing. He is now a far cry from the man who ate vaseline on an internet live-stream. Stephon Marbury is so beloved in China that he can become a symbol of a government official's power simply by taking on a minor role at a sporting event.
Follow your dreams, kids. Anything is possible.
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