“I am Marbury. You are Marbury. We are all connected.” These words, proclaimed by Stephon Marbury to sold-out crowds in his hit Chinese musical I Am Marbury, encapsulate the very essence of what he, the star of the musical, stands for: both his ego and the connection between basketball and everyday life found only, he believes, in China. Before making himself into a C.B.A. legend and Chinese celebrity, however, Marbury had quite the impressive N.B.A. career.
Following a stellar freshman year at Georgia Tech, Marbury was drafted fourth overall by the Milwaukee Bucks and then immediately traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was entering into the late ‘90s/mid 2000s N.B.A., an entertaining time of basketball filled with Allen Iversons, Jamal Crawfords, crossovers, big shorts, and little guys with mid-range games.
Marbury got right to work, averaging nearly sixteen p.p.g. (points per game) and eight a.p.g. (assists per game) in his rookie season, making the All-Rookie Team in 1997. He would continue to be productive before requesting a trade following the lockout shortened 1999 season. Marbury was traded to the New Jersey Nets, a trade surrounded by speculation regarding his relationship with the Timberwolves organization. He would go on to play several seasons with the Nets and then the Phoenix Suns, continuing to put up solid numbers and reaching two All-Star games before moving back home to the New York Knicks. Upon his arrival in New York, “Starbury,” Marbury’s nickname since childhood, truly began to get comfortable in the N.B.A.
In his five seasons with the Knicks, Marbury played a major role in the firing of two coaches, being involved in publicized feuds with both Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas. With the introduction of coach Mike D’Antoni, Marbury’s starting spot became threatened, causing him to ultimately depart on poor terms, being banned from Knicks’ practices and games. He then went on to play the worst season of his career for the Boston Celtics before finally moving onto the C.B.A., the Chinese Basketball Association.
Marbury, a career tarnished by a big ol’ ego behind him, could now start fresh in the C.B.A. He would be able to put his supposed fist fight with coach Isiah Thomas behind him, as well as his selection to the sorriest U.S.A. Men's Basketball Team since they let pros play. He would also be able to put his fifteen dollar Steve & Barry’s clown looking basketball shoe behind him. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, he would be able to put that time he ran a twenty-four hour live stream of himself answering questions, crying, and eating vaseline behind him. He, however, did not leave everything when he went to China, he still had his lefty spin pass into the post, his filthy crossover, and his shoe logo head tattoo.
Marbury entered the C.B.A. and immediately impressed. His first four seasons he averaged roughly 25 p.p.g., 7 a.p.g., and 5 r.p.g. as a 6’2” point guard. He would win three C.B.A. Championships in 2012, 2014, and 2015. A six-time C.B.A. All-Star, a Finals MVP, and a Foreign MVP (an honor shared by Michael Beasley and Jimmer Fredette), Marbury has certainly cemented his status as one of the all-time great Americans, and players, to play in the C.B.A.
Marbury’s retirement at the end of his current C.B.A. season will mark the loss of a legend. A deserved Hall of Famer who gives generously, does not back down, and hit that nasty lay-up followed by the picked off inbounds pass and immediate three pointer against the Toronto Raptors. He is an artist on the court, on the side of his head, and on the stage. Marbury is an N.B.A. icon and should not be quickly forgotten.