BEIJING — After his tears had dried up, Stephon Marbury was the star of Game 1 of the Chinese Basketball Association finals.
Marbury scored a game-high 36 points with five assists, five rebounds and one altercation as the Beijing Ducks went 1-0 up in their best-of-seven CBA finals against the defending champions Guangdong Southern Tigers with a 108-101 victory Wednesday night.
Prior to the series, when the Ducks qualified to play the defending champions (who now have Aaron Brooks in their arsenal), the 35-year-old former NBA-All-Star did not restrain his emotions, letting tears roll down his cheeks.
In the last game of the CBA semifinal, the Beijing Ducks defeated the Shanxi Brave Dragons to provide Marbury with his first finals experience since he led Lincoln High School to the New York City public schools championship in 1995. During his first two seasons in China, Marbury’s team failed to compete in the playoffs, and during his 13-year NBA career he never came close to competing for a championship. (And then there was stint with the 2004 U.S. Olympic team, which lost the Argentina in the semifinals and took home the bronze medal from the Athens Games.
Marbury’s tears dripped for 10 minutes after a crowd of 6,000 exhorted him with chants of “M-V-P”.
He had never experienced such a moment, and it had been a loooong time since he had received such a level of fan support.
“I really don’t know how to describe my feelings. Happy, excited, satisfied, I don’t know, I can’t find the proper words,” Marbury said. “I dreamed, I imagined this, but those are definitely not as good as now. Finals, I made it. I am 35, I played basketball from 2, I think I made an effort for 33 years.”
One week before the win-or-go-home game against Shanxi, Marbury said he was having sleepless nights. The night before the deciding game, he lay in bed, could not sleep, kept trying — but said the effort only made him more clear-headed.
Finally, he fell asleep, and when he woke up he thought he had slept for several hours. However, when he looked at the clock, it had only been 90 minutes.
The CBA finals resume Friday under a 1-2-2-2 format, with the series shifting to Guangdong, where the Southern Tigers have won seven of the past eight CBA titles.
Many Guangdong players also compete for the Chinese national team, and the two imports are Brooks and American James Singleton.
“It is not impossible for us to defeat the Tigers,” said Zhai Xiaochuan, the 19-years old who recently joined the national team.
Marbury himself surely has confidence.
“Defeat Guangdong and win the title? Why not? Look, let’s see,” he said. “I don’t want to predict, but I know my teammates and I will treasure this chance. This is the dream chance for every basketball players. We will fight.”
Guan Weijia is a columnist for Titan Sports, The Beijing News and qq.com. His columns for SheridanHoops.com appear every Friday.