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Stephon Marbury's almost-literally-unbelievable second act as a professional basketball icon in China continued apace this week with the opening of a museum dedicated solely to his life and accomplishments in Beijing, just a few blocks from Tiananmen Square:
"The House of Marbury" won't officially open to the public until next Monday, but the 38-year-old point guard joined family, friends, teammates and well-wishers to celebrate its grand opening on Monday:
— I AM PEACE STAR (@StarburyMarbury) December 21, 2015
When Marbury first headed to China in 2010, many believed it to be the last gasp of a basketball career that began with the promise of greatness — his come-up as a playground and prep legend in New York City, a Third-Team All-American nod in his one season at Georgia Tech, his selection as the fourth overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft to team with ascendant power forward Kevin Garnett in leading the young Minnesota Timberwolves — only to become defined by on-court inconsistency and off-court controversy. Not even the most optimistic onlookers expected this.
While Marbury had achieved at high levels in the NBA, averaging 19.3 points and 7.6 assists per game in a 12-year career with two All-Star trips and two All-NBA Third Team selections, he never seemed to reach the heights so many had envisioned for him, and he wrote out his welcome in his first three NBA stops inside of three years. He'd last five seasons with his hometown New York Knicks, but it was not a happy half-decade; as GQ's Wells Tower wrote in 2011, Marbury's NBA life had devolved into "a catalog of errors that included public spats with coaches, romancing a Knicks intern in his truck, and a series of candid Webcasts in which he wept, burst into song, ate Vaseline, and generally volunteered grist for broad speculation that he had gone out of his mind."
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And so, after a few post-buyout months as a reserve on the 2008-09 Boston Celtics, Marbury pulled up stakes and headed east, joining the CBA's Shanxi Brave Dragons and becoming the highest-profile player ever imported into China's top league. And instead of the experiment blowing up in the faces of everyone involved, it worked; he was a productive draw, and he was happy.
Marbury would spend one season with Shanxi and another with the Foshan Dralions before finding what he'd later call his "second home" with the Beijing Ducks. His first season in Beijing included the longest playoff run of his career, and Marbury capped it by scoring 41 points in the clinching fifth game of the CBA Finals, making him a league champion for the first time as a professional. The performance led rabid Chinese fans to commission a bronze statue of Marbury that still stands outside the Ducks' home arena; he has continued to earn it by leading the team to two more titles in the next three years.
He's become a legend in China, an inspiration for (and co-star of) musicals and the kind of icon whose image gets immortalized on a postage stamp. In this context, a museum in his honor seems downright reasonable.
"Today was one of the best days of my life in opening my own museum The House of Marbury," he wrote on his Weibo account, according to China Daily. "I couldn't have dreamed this dream for myself although God has created another miracle in this life for me. Without my teammates, coaches and fans from Beijing this wouldn't be possible."
More on the museum, from GBTimes.com:
In the jersey exhibition zone, six jerseys, including Timberwolves, Nets, Knicks and Beijing, are on display. Marbury highlighted the meaning of the Beijing jersey to him.
"That's in my heart. My Beijing jersey means more to me than any of them. I don't see that because of the championship, but just because I'm here at home and I've had a support system," said Marbury.
Marbury expressed both his faith and his gratitude for all that's come his way in China in the caption of a recent Instagram post:
#statue #key to the city of Beijing #honorarycitizen #stamp collection #postcards #greencard and next up a #museum I've been trying to tell you how amazing #God is but I don't think some can hear me. I hope and pray one day you can love him like he loves me because of loving him. There's nothing he can't do. The only thing he can't do is lie to you or fail you. #loveislove
Even at age 38, Marbury shows no signs of slowing down — he's averaging 18.5 points, 6.2 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals in 34.4 minutes per game for 13-7 Beijing this season — and recently told Yahoo Sports NBA writer Marc J. Spears he wants to continue playing in China "until my body tells me to stop." Until that day comes, he'll keep going, keep proving those of us who doubted him wrong, and keep working to give his new museum's curators more trophies and memorabilia to add to the collection. As Marbury told Spears: "That’s pretty cool for a kid from Coney Island."
Hat-tip to Sportando.
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