BEIJING – Who is the greatest American player in CBA history? You can’t find an answer that pleases everyone.
Some may tell you Stephon Marbury is the best. He is a two-time NBA all-star, was selected to the All-NBA Third Team twice, and praised himself as the best point guard on the planet. Others would say J.R. Smith is a better player for now because he is much younger than Starbury, and he is a scoring machine who already put up a triple-double (33 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in an exhibition game.
But some Zhejiang fans would tell you Smith is not even the best American player even in Zhejiang Province. They would point to Wilson Chandler, who signed with Zhejiang Guangsha. I have called him the CBA’s LeBron James.
But don’t forget another name. He was selected first overall in the 2000 NBA Draft, he was an All-Star in 2004, and until last season he was considered one of the best defensive players in the NBA.
He is Kenyon Martin, and if a player’s ability can be judged by his salary, K-Mart is that greatest player in CBA history.
Reports in America stated he signed a one-season, $2.7 million contract, but let me tell you, as multiple sources have told me: That $2.7 million is Martin’s salary after tax!
His team, the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, also hired a crew that includes a translator, a driver and a chef, to help to smooth Martin’s transition to a new culture. He lives in a three-floor villa, which also is paid for by the club.
In the CBA, Xinjiang is not a big-market team, but it IS the richest team. They have been runner-ups the past three years, they crave a championship, and they believe the best chance will come this season. Besides K-Mart, Xinjiang has already signed former CBA MVP Quincy Douby, center Mengke Bateer and Tang Zhengdong, who was awarded the CBA MVP Award for three times. Their new coach for this season is Bob Donewald, who led the Chinese national squad to the Asian championship in September.
Donewald, the highest paid head coach in the league, said of Martin, “He’s going to provide us intensity in defense and rebounding. He’s a smart guy on the court and he keeps in good shape. He’s going to help us a lot.”
Bateer also praised Martin, “He has a great basketball IQ, and he passes the ball well. I knew him when I played in the NBA. I think he is a better player now, because he really can shoot jumpers.”
Bateer was the first Chinese player to be a starter in an NBA game. When he played for San Antonio Spurs in 2003, he met Martin in the NBA finals. At that time, Bateer didn’t get a chance to play, while Martin was the starting power forward for the New Jersey Nets.
Martin also remembers Bateer, “He was called Shaquille O’Neal of China, because he is very strong. In training camp, I found that he is one of the strongest men in the world. He is 35 years old, but if someone told me he is only 25, I would believe it, because he is in a great shape.”
Martin and Bateer both are ready for the coming season. Bateer has a NBA championship ring in his home, but no CBA championships; Martin helped his team into the NBA Finals, but the Nets lost in 2002 and 2003.
“The money is great, but I don’t need it. I wanna play, I wanna win, Xinjiang needs a championship, and so do I. I’ll work very hard for this,” Martin said.
In his first CBA preseason game, Martin had 12 points and 3 rebounds; in the second game, he had 18 points and 14 rebounds. Chandler had a better performance in his first preseason game for Zhejiang Guangsha with 28 points and 7 rebounds; In the second one, he scored 36 points.
Guan Weijia is a columnist for Titan Sports, The Beijing News and qq.com. His columns for SheridanHoops.com appear every Wednesday.