Stephon Marbury is parting ways with the Chinese team that made him a legend

Ball Don't Lie
Stephon Marbury is one of China’s biggest celebrities. (AP)
Stephon Marbury is one of China’s biggest celebrities. (AP)

Stephon Marbury and the Chinese Basketball Association team that made him a legend abroad are headed for a temporary separation after the two sides failed to come to terms on his playing future and the former NBA All-Star turned down an offer to coach the team, according to multiple reports.

Marbury would still like to play at least one more season in the CBA, but the Beijing Ducks — the team with which he won three championships in six seasons — is reportedly entering a rebuilding phase and unwilling to use one of its two foreign-born player spots on the 40-year-old, beloved as he is.

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The Ducks owned an option for next season that allowed the team to choose whether they wanted Marbury back as a player or coach, and he revealed in a letter to his fans on Weibo — China’s version of Twitter — that he rejected offers to serve as an assistant or act as a player-coach at a lower salary.


Portions of Marbury’s letter were published on Shanghaiist.com, XinhuaNet.com and ESPN.com:

First, the team did not decide who would be the head coach, apparently the team is in a rebuilding progress. Coach Min who lead this team to [three championships] might not be the head coach anymore which makes it hard for me to accept the offer of becoming an assistant coach.

Second, we did not make the playoffs in the past season, as a player who always want to win and work hard to prepare myself for winning, it’s very hard to accept the way the season ended. Though I am 40 years already, I still work very hard to keep my body right, I can still play at a very high level, I am sure all the fans could tell from last season I’m still capable of playing. I was still able to lead the team to compete, even with an injured leg. I pulled my hamstring at the beginning of the season and I still played and put everything on the court because that’s who I am. I want to play, I love to compete, I [pursue] winning all the time, l love basketball because it’s my life, I still have a lot in the tank that [makes] me really want to play for another year. I want to dedicate this last year of my career in the best way possible on the court for the CBA, then I’ll retire and work as a coach to help the basketball here for the rest of my life.

[…]

I appreciate them allowing me to keep competing and winning in this great league the CBA. I have not decided which team yet … but there is one thing I’m 100 percent sure of no matter the team I play for the love between me and the club is always there, we will keep working with each other in the future.

[…]

As a 20 year veteran, I understand this is a professional game, that’s why I fully respect the club’s situation and decision. This afternoon we received the agreement letter from the team to terminate the contract we have for the coming season. I appreciate them allowing me to keep competing and winning in this great league, the CBA.

[…]

Of course the fans of Beijing who gave me my second life, thank you so much as always. LOVE is LOVE.

The No. 4 overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft, Marbury played 13 seasons and earned two All-Star bids, before flaming out as a backup point guard on the 2008-09 Boston Celtics. He signed in China later that year, and despite skepticism about a guy who lit up a joint and admitted on camera in August 2009, “I smoke marijuana,” being able to maintain a career overseas, Marbury proved everyone wrong.

After two years on the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons and Foshan Dralions, Marbury joined the Beijing Ducks in 2011. He promptly led the Ducks to three CBA titles in four years (2012, 2014 and 2015), earning the nicknames “Lone Wolf” and “Old Ma” and becoming a celebrity of legendary proportions. The Chinese community embraced Marbury like no other American player in history, creating 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. He became such a phenomenon in Beijing that China made him the first foreign-born player ever to earn a “permanent residence card” from the country.


Fans in Beijing were taken aback by the news, posting messages on Weibo ranging from, “You are the MVP of my heart forever,” and, “No matter where you go, Beijing is always your home. You are a hero of this city,” per DailyStarPH.com. Marbury reciprocated in his letter to fans, writing, “No matter where I am, I am a Beijinger.” And the Ducks seemed similarly disappointed in terminating Marbury’s contract.

“Despite not wanting to see him leave, the club has to give up the option of keeping him with the Ducks based on the team’s strategic rebuilding process and his personal will to continue playing,” Ducks deputy general manager Xie Haitian told China Daily of the team’s decision to part ways.

Still, Marbury suggested a reunion between the two sides is likely in the future. He reiterated to The Undefeated that he would like to coach in Beijing once his playing days in the CBA are over.

“We agreed that I would leave this season and the door is always open to coach,” Marbury told The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears on Sunday. “They had the option for me to play or coach and they wanted me to coach. It’s understandable at my age, but my age doesn’t dictate my game. This gives me strong desire to work hard and try my best to come back to help a team win a chip.”

Marbury averaged 22.6 points, 5.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds over his six seasons on the Ducks, including 21.4 points, 5.5 assists and four rebounds over 36 games this season. He captured CBA International MVP honors for the 2012-13 season and CBA Finals MVP honors during the 2015 title run.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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