Genius is often misunderstood. Take Stephon Marbury’s career for example. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more talented player who had a more turbulent time in the NBA. Marbury’s career took him through highs and lows and now halfway around the globe. Although he’s retired now, what might an NBA comeback look like? He thinks he’d still be able to compete.
Stephon Marbury’s NBA career and reputation
Marbury was a big deal even at an early age. Back in the early ’90s, a young freelance writer named Darcy Frey set out to write a nonfiction book about New York City high school basketball. The Last Shot followed Marbury’s amazing high school career at Abraham Lincoln High along with two of his peers, as Grantland details.
During his senior year in 1996, Marbury was named New York State’s “Mr Basketball,” averaging 27 points and eight assists per game. Frey’s book helped catapult the young player into the national eye. Marbury would play one season at Georgia Tech before declaring for the NBA draft. His professional career would be a different story, however.
It wasn’t his performance that was the problem. Over a 15 season career in the NBA, Marbury averaged 19 points per game, and seven assists, numbers comparable to his high school brilliance. The problem was the relationship with his coaches.
Marbury was shuttled between numerous teams over the years. He was initially drafted by the Timberwolves, where he spent three seasons. He spent another five seasons with the New York Knicks, as well as time in Phoenix, New Jersey, and Boston.
Marbury brought multiple teams to the NBA playoffs, and was named to the Olympic team in 2003, but his brand ultimately suffered while he was in New York. After a series of public feuds with coach Larry Brown, Marbury went to the Celtics for a year before leaving the NBA for good.
A career resurgence
Marbury may have been done with the NBA, but he was far from finished with the sport. After leaving Boston, Marbury surprised everyone by signing with the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons in China, according to the New Yorker. The emerging Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) was hungry for top-tier talent and international notoriety.
Despite an incredible initial season, the Dragons failed to make the playoffs. Marbury would take a brief detour with the Foshan Dralions before finding a permanent home with Beijing Ducks. Between 2011 and 2017, The Beijing Ducks became a CBA powerhouse, winning three separate championship games.
Marbury posted some of his highest stats ever with the Ducks. He even averaged 45 points per game against his old team, the Dragons. During his time in Beijing, Marbury became something of a national hero. They erected a statue of his likeness at the 2008 Olympic site, and he received the keys to the city. In China, Marbury found respect he’d lacked in New York.
A return to the NBA?
In speaking with the New Yorker, Marbury recently said, “My game is timeless.” Given his success and growth in China, the question has come up on numerous occasions: What if Marbury were to return to the NBA? He continued to share his thoughts on the matter:
The way I played, it’s my style, and, my style, it fits in any era. Power, strength, finesse, jump shot, jump, dunk. You didn’t have guys doing the things that I was doing on the basketball court at my size. How many guards do you know scored going through the middle of the paint?Stephon Marbury on playing in today’s NBA
Questions like that are purely speculative though. Marbury has been playing professional basketball for 20 years. Besides, retirement has kept him just as busy. Marbury is now coaching the Beijing Flying Dragons. According to The Undefeated, he also has various business ventures including being on the board of directors for a sports-based blockchain group, a reality series on Chinese television, and a new apparel line.
Marbury played a critical role in raising coronavirus awareness earlier this year. He publicly called for NBA commissioner Adam Silver to suspend the 2020 season amid growing health concerns and secured a donation of thousands of masks for American healthcare workers. A return to the NBA might not be in the cards for Marbury. But it’s safe to say he’s made peace with his old life.