When Stephon Marbury left the United States in 2010 to play in the Chinese Basketball Association, many expected the overseas sojourn to represent a final ignominious chapter in a once-promise-packed basketball career that had never quite lived up to expectations and had gone rather spectacularly off the rails. Few foresaw the former New York City playground and high-school star, Georgia Tech standout and two-time NBA All-Star finding in China the level of professional success, personal validation and peace that he never located in his native land ... but that's precisely what happened.
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Now, six years and three CBA championships after his arrival, Marbury has received an honor perhaps rarer and greater than being commemorated with bronze statue, a musical, a postage stamp and a museum — a People's Republic of China Foreigner's Permanent Residence Card:
— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) April 18, 2016
— I AM PEACE STAR (@StarburyMarbury) April 18, 2016
After being awarded honorary citizenship in Beijing last year in recognition of his contributions to the Beijing Ducks, the team for which he has starred over the last five seasons, Marbury applied for "a Chinese green card" that would make him the first foreign-born player in the CBA's 21-year history to be officially afforded status as a permanent resident of the nation that has embraced him.
"Government guidelines say that permanent status applicants should have a direct investment in China, hold senior positions in companies or academic institutions, or have significant talents and skills needed in China," Kiki Zhao of the New York Times wrote back in December, after Marbury said his application was approved.
Those requirements have previously made the "green cards" exceptionally difficult to get, according to Heather Chen of BBC News, but times seem to be changing:
China's green card policy was introduced in 2004 and is a notoriously difficult permit to obtain because of the stringent requirements for residency.
Earlier this year however, Chinese media reported the government had eased rules and procedures, in a move to attract foreign investment. Applicants are required to hold professional titles and have made "outstanding contributions" to China.
They must have worked in the country for more than four years and have sound tax records. Officials say that only 5,000 foreigners were granted permanent residency between 2004 and 2013. There are an estimated 600,000 foreigners in the country.
"I'm so thankful and blessed to receive my green card today from the Beijing Government," the 39-year-old Marbury said after receiving his permanent residence card, according to Xinhua. "It's a true honor to be part of the capital of China. I hope I can not only help win more championships but continue to bring positive energy and love."
Marbury averaged 19.7 points, 5.6 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 33.1 minutes per game for Beijing, shooting 48.3 percent from the floor and 38 percent from 3-point range, but his Ducks bowed out in the first round of the 2016 CBA playoffs, losing 3-1 to the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, led by former NBA player Andray Blatche and 7-foot-2 2016 NBA draft prospect Zhou Qi.
While his fellow 1996 draft standout Kobe Bryant just played his final professional basketball game, Marbury intends to press on, telling Yahoo Sports late last year that he wants "to play until my body tells me to stop." Evidently, the people of China are more than happy to have him for as long as he wants to stick around.
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