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Marbury's mission continues
2020-10-19 
Stephon Marbury enjoys a visit to a school in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Oct 4. The 43-year-old says the future looks bright for China's new generation of hoopsters. XINHUA

"I'm not leaving," Stephon Marbury declares.

"I don't think that I'm gonna retire anytime soon from coaching basketball. I think I just got started. So it's a long way to go about retiring."

The 43-year-old Beijing Royal Fighters coach is now in his 10th year in China, and is already plotting his next decade in the country.

"I don't think that I'm the type of person that would just retire and not do anything. I think I will work to 80, 90 years old if I can live that long. I don't have a desire to do nothing while I'm living," the global basketball icon told Xinhua.

Arriving in Shanxi province in 2010, the two-time NBA All-Star experienced something of a culture shock after moving from leafy New England to North China. Marbury, though, adapted and thrived.

Now, 10 years later, Marbury enjoys legendary status in Beijing and is a global symbol of the Chinese Basketball Association. From day one in China, Marbury embraced the challenge of playing in the CBA, and for his respective clubs, earning six CBA All-Star appearances as well as three championships with the Beijing Ducks.

"I mean, I just conformed to how people live here and did what everyone else did. I think people could see that it was just natural, wasn't forced. I wanted to be here. I wanted to integrate. I wanted to be a part of the culture," Marbury reflected.

"Coming to China was a blessing for me because I never thought that I would come and play basketball here. I never thought that I would live here for 10 years. I never thought that I would be able to win championships here and have a statue, a green card."

The statue, which was erected in honor of his efforts with the Ducks, was an unmissable sight for Marbury's mother when she visited her son in the capital.

"It was a happy time. It was a moment not only for my mom but for my whole family to experience because it was something that has never happened to us before," he said.

"We were greatly appreciative toward the city for giving us such a high honor and to be able to receive something like that in another country for us is a monument to a moment. And you know, we're so thankful and grateful for it. And that was how we expressed how we felt through our emotions."

In addition to the statue, the American was awarded with a rare and sought-after Chinese permanent residence card in 2017.

Adopted Beijinger Stephon Marbury feels right at home in the capital. FU ZENGKAI/FOR CHINA DAILY

"I didn't know what it was. I was like, 'Oh, that's great.' I don't need to get a visa no more. That's good. So I was happy about that... It was pretty, pretty cool to be able not to have to go and get a visa and to have the entry where you could go in and out. I was just thankful and grateful for it. It was definitely something that you will want if you're a foreigner."

But as an adopted Beijinger, the 43-year-old has taken to the city's way of life. From eating hotpot to cosmopolitan shopping and, of course, complaining about traffic and polluted days.

"That's one of the things that I don't like. I don't like the traffic. I'm from New York, so I'm used to traffic, but the traffic here is different. But the pollution, I don't think nobody likes the pollution here.

"I look at Beijing as a kind of a mixture of New York and Washington DC. My mom lives in Sioux and Maryland, which is like 15/20 minutes from Washington, DC. I've been going to Washington, DC since I was a little kid. I'm from New York. Beijing is a combination of that."

During the past decade of Marbury's service to the CBA, the country has changed significantly, both economically and in the sporting sense. In that time, Chinese basketball has seen greater modernization in the professional game as youth and college hoops have started to churn out a consistent supply of solid prospects. Players like Zhou Qi, Sun Minghui, Abdusalam Abdurexit and Zhao Jiwei have burst onto the scene, and now form an exciting, young backbone of the Chinese national side.

"The plans are getting better. They're starting to understand how to play differently. I wanna say definitely they're getting better," the Royal Fighters coach said.

"They're getting stronger, they're getting more athletic. The younger generation, they're changing as time is changing. There's a new generation that's coming. And the next generation of guys is alive. You know, they are a lot more athletic, their understanding of the game is getting better."

After trading his jersey for the suit and tie of coaching, Marbury led his Royal Fighters team to the playoffs in his first season in the job. He has turned the underdogs into a solid, progressive force that dwells in the top half of the table, despite the difficult circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In fact, Marbury himself got caught up in the chaos when the epidemic went global. "I really got lucky because right when it was getting started in China, I left and I went back to America. And when I went back to America, people weren't really that aware of what was going on," he said.

"I was pretty much telling people that this was something that could be serious. Then I left America right when it was getting ready to start in America, while China was getting a hold of it. They were figuring out ways on how to try to contain the virus."

Xinhua

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