Maybe Stephon Marbury was offered a chance to play with the Miami Heat or maybe he wasn’t, but it’s all moot now. According to the Associated Press, Marbury has agreed to a three-year deal with his current Chinese Basketball Association team, Shanxi Zhongyu.
Two pretty interesting tidbits, though. According to Shanxi’s website, Marbury may only be asked to play for two of his three years under contract. During the final year, he may become an assistant coach, which is just about the most fantastic news I’ve ever heard.
Also, as part of his deal with Shanxi, the team’s ownership will create a company specifically to produce Starbury brand products, and open three store locations in which to sell them. Your itch to purchase affordable Marbury-spawned basketball footwear is about to be scratched, world.
If Marbury really does retire in two years, I wouldn’t say it would be a fitting end to his saga, but it certainly is a surprising one. As much as players like Yao Ming, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, and even Brandon Jennings have come to symbolize the influence of the international game, Marbury provides an interesting look at the other implications of basketball as a globalized sport.
Rather than having foreign leagues serve as legitimate competition for prospects or even a training ground for the NBA, sub-elite leagues around the world offer an arena for past-their-prime NBA stars to still rule the day while bringing home a steady paycheck. The lights aren’t as bright and the money’s not quite as good, but somehow Marbury, as distinctly American as basketball players come, has morphed into a fan favorite in China. He’s certainly not the first player to make such a transition, yet his experience has to be the most surreal.
It’s a wacky world we live in, but this could conceivably be the path of post-NBA ballers for years to come. See the world, keep playing, keep making money, and hey, if you’re lucky, bring back your own defunct brand of basketball apparel.
Starbury is living the dream, even if it wasn’t his to begin with. Yet with no NBA team to call his own, this is who he is now. This is, somehow, who he’s become as a player. Marbury’s path from beginning to end may honestly be too bizarre to believe, but one day, when his playing days are finally through, we’ll have to make sense of all this. From urban legend to a figure of international import, Marbury didn’t go full circle. He created some new shape to travel, because as he’s made perfectly clear, you will not put him in the box.