Beijing's new star guard is going native as he prepares to begin his third season in the CBA.
OK, sorry, but this is a pun that can't be avoided: Stephon Marbury has taken to China like a duck to water. There, it's now been said of the Beijing Ducks' star signing, who will swing into action against the Jilin Northeast Tigers on Sunday at his new team's home stadium in the western Shijingshan district.
Marbury takes the subway to practice on Oct. 26.
Some expats keep a distance from the local culture and like to hang out in foreign cliques; some put their toes in the water and have a crack at learning the country's language and customs; and then some just throw themselves head first into the China pool - Marbury falls into that latter, dripping wet, category.
The 34-year-old from Coney Island, New York, is a long way from his home, his family and the strife-riddled NBA, but he says he couldn't be happier being where he is right now - in the nation's capital.
"I've been here (Beijing) since October 6 and I love it, I love it ... I love everything about China," Marbury said during last week's launch of the impending Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) season.
"It's been a great experience coming here to China and now Beijing. It's something I needed for my life and for my basketball," said the two-time all-star point guard who left the NBA to join the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons in 2010, before moving to the Foshan Dralions, and now the Ducks.
The former Minnesota, New Jersey, Phoenix, New York and Boston guard laments the fact he is away from his wife and three children, but plans to bring them out at Christmas time and is also, apparently, looking at buying a house or apartment in Beijing.
As with most foreigners, Marbury originally struggled with the language, but believes he is getting a grasp of it now.
"It's coming along, it's coming along. I'm getting the tones, I'm learning the tones that was probably the hardest part for me, but I'm getting it now and I can get around on my own," he said of his Mandarin.
Marbury's NBA career, which spanned 14 years, did not exactly end on a high. He was embroiled in an ugly feud with his hometown Knicks, which saw him spend a lot of time riding the pine before he finished as a bit player for the Celtics.
Beijing Ducks guard Stephon Marbury, a fan of the Beijing Guo'an soccer team, watches its game against Chengdu on Aug. 17.
However, all that opened the gateway to China and rejuvenated the veteran, who averaged more than 19 points and almost eight assists during his 846-game NBA career.
He is keeping an eye on the labor impasse between the NBA's owners and players, which is pushing that league towards a season-long wipe-out.
He believes the owners have all the leverage, but his focus now is on China and the Ducks.
He is the unofficial face of the CBA and he doesn't mind that at all.
Starbury, as he likes to be called, is a fan of Chinese food and regularly rides the subway, which in some ways transports him back to New York and its iconic underground system.
But his heart is very much in Beijing now.
"As far as I see it, this country is my future right now," he said.
(China Daily November 17, 2011)