After scoring 41 points with seven assists, Marbury was in tears yet again Friday night with the outcome of the game still in doubt.
How many times did he cry this season? How many tears had been shed? Even Marbury couldn’t give an accurate count.
When he cried for first time Friday night, Game 5 of the CBA Finals was still going on, but Marbury had fouled out. There was still 1:21 left on the clock, and Beijing and Guangdong were tied 121-121.
Randolph Morris made two key FTs, then Chen Lei, the captain of the Beijing Ducks, made another free throw for a three-point lead. When Aaron Brooks’ 3-pointer was off-target at the buzzer, the Ducks had a 124-121 victory for the CBA championship.
Marbury donned a championship t-shirt after the game (yes, they have those in China, too), rushed into the court, and the tears was still flowing. “When I came to China for the first time, I just had a dream that I want to get the champion trophy. The dream has been realized. No one can beat us, we are the champion of CBA!”
This was Marbury’s first championship since his high school days, and Beijing’s first in 29 years.
Marbury’s grateful teammates hoisted him upon their shoulders.
“This team could win without me, but couldn’t without him,” said Min Lulei, the coach of Beijing.
In Games 4 and 5 in Beijing, all 18,000 fans were chanting “M-V-P! M-V-P!” when Marbury stepped to the free throw line.
He averaged 33.4 points in the 5-game series, but he couldn’t get the Final MVP trophy. According to CBA rules, only native Chinese players are eligible.
For me, this was hard to believe, and I called the rule into question on the front page of Titan Sports Weekly, the most popular sports newspaper in China.
“This is a league that have declared they want to be an international pro league, but the rules point in a negative direction,” I wrote.
“If there was any change, it should occur next season at least,” an officer of CBA, Bai Xilin said.
Marbury didn’t care.
“This is the league of Chinese, it was reasonable that they wanna to issue the MVP to Chinese players. I did not care for the MVP trophy, but did for the championship. That’s what I have dreamed about for years since my childhood,” the 35-year-old Marbury said.
“I was standing on the opposite side of the whole world,” Marbury said of his move to China three years ago. “There wasn’t anybody who believed in me in the U.S., they all said something just like: ‘He wouldn’t pass the ball to anyone on the court’, or ‘He wasn’t able to integrate into any team’. So I didn’t tell them that I had decided to play in China, because I know if they were informed of it, there shouldn’t be any positive report. They would say: “He just wants to sell his shoes in China.’ ”
But in China, Stephon was popular for his professional demeanor as he was for his two All-Star appearances. Said Li Ke, Marbury’s former teammate who is now a coach: “Many American players who have played in NBA were arrogant in China, they would have been absent on the training sessions for multiple reasons. But Stephon won’t, he will try his best every time.”
Marbury coined a nickname “Evil Genius” for his head coach, Min Lulei: “Because every time he said the training will last for 90 minutes, in fact it would be at least two hours.”
Marbury now has realized his dream of being a champion, but there is one more dream for him in the future: To be the head coach of the Chinese National Team.
Guan Weijia is a columnist for Titan Sports, The Beijing News, qq.com and SheridanHoops.com.