Stephon Marbury is part of what some experts believe to be one of the greatest draft classes in NBA history. And being selected 4th overall in this particular draft class meant that even as a rookie, he was recognized as one of the best basketball players. In fact, he was part of the All-Rookie Team for that year. But he didn’t exactly have the best NBA career. So what happened to Stephon Marbury?
Who is Stephon Marbury?
Stephon Marbury is a retired professional basketball player with one of the most unconventional and controversial roads to basketball stardom.
Underwhelming NBA Career
For most of his playing career, he stayed close to home by playing for the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets. He also played for several other teams during his career, including Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, and Boston Celtics.
He was born and raised in a basketball-obsessed family in Brooklyn, New York. So it’s no surprise that he became a streetball star at Abraham Lincoln High School as a high school player.
He was also a proud New Yorker. Fittingly, he had the opportunity to play for both New York-based franchises – the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets later in his professional playing career.
Superstardom in China
However, the bulk of his professional playing career has been carved overseas in China after a relatively underwhelming career in the NBA. In China, he turned into a true basketball icon, leading the Beijing Ducks to three championships in a row. He’s become so famous in the Asian country that they even had a Stephon Marbury statue erected at their home arena. He also has his own brand of sneakers, which are popular among Chinese youth.
He currently serves as head coach for the Beijing Royal Fighters of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).
China was far from the first place he thought of ending up playing in. He was already a local basketball star in New York before even stepping foot at Georgia Tech’s collegiate courts.
Stephon Marbury’s NBA Career Highlights
Marbury’s career is full of ups and downs. He’s had to deal with a lot of injuries, drama at home and on the court, and a few trades. But throughout it all, he has managed to stay true to himself.
Stephon Marbury, the Journeyman
Stephon Marbury was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1996 but was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves on draft day. He played for the Timberwolves for two seasons (1996-1999), developing into an All-Star player in his last year with them (1999-2001).
In 2000, Stephon signed with New Jersey Nets, where he played for two years before being acquired by Phoenix Suns and playing there for three seasons from 2002-2005.
During this period, Stephon began displaying signs of discontent with the Sun’s management, which led him to be traded to the team where he wanted most: the New York Knicks!
However, the guard’s mercurial temper and tendency to clash with the coaching staff would get the best of him. While he played some inspired basketball with his hometown Knicks, his stubbornness and poor attitude would lead to his demise as a player in the NBA.
Awards and Accolades
During his time in the NBA, he was a solid player and received numerous awards, including an All-Rookie First team selection and 2 NBA All-Star appearances (2001, 2003).
He was also named to two All-NBA Teams in 2001 and 2002 while he was with the Suns. He also helped lead the Knicks to playoff contention in 2004. After five seasons with them, Marbury’s NBA career took a downward spiral, with his contract being bought out by the New York Knicks.
Why Did Stephon Marbury Leave the NBA?
Stephon Marbury’s style of play was largely disliked by NBA coaches at that time. He was known for dribbling excessively, which he took from the streetball influences he had as a kid. He was also known for taking unnecessary risks on the court, often resulting in turnovers or missed shots. This led to criticism from coaches and players alike, including an infamous series of public callouts between him and the highly respected Larry Brown.
This led to Larry Brown’s firing from the Knicks’ coaching staff and the arrival of head coach Isiah Thomas. For a while, it seemed that the Thomas and Marbury connection was a match made in heaven. Isiah was known as a hard-nosed coach, and he seemed to understand Marbury’s style of play. This was due in large part to the fact that Isiah had a similar style of play when he suited up for the Detroit Pistons in the 80s and early 90s.
However, the relationship would sour as Isiah wanted to limit Marbury’s minutes and play him less than the star point guard wanted. This led to Isiah’s departure from the Knicks and the arrival of a new head coach.
With Mike D’Antoni on the way as the Knick’s new head coach, Marbury was hopeful that he would have more freedom to do what he wanted on the court. However, D’Antoni was known for running a fast-paced offense and limiting his players to around 100 possessions per game. This did not mesh with Marbury’s style of play, which is more ball-dominant as he likes to be in control of the game.
So, after going through three esteemed coaches, the Knicks decided that Marbury was no longer worth the trouble and bought out the remainder of his contract. This enabled him to sign with the Boston Celtics, for which he would play insignificant minutes until he decided to retire from the NBA altogether.
It would later be revealed that Marbury might have suffered from depression and other mental health issues during his stint in the NBA.
Stephon Marbury’s Life After NBA
With his NBA career behind him at just 32 years old, Marbury still had a lot of productive basketball left in him. However, no NBA team wanted him. So, Marbury decided to play in China. He initially signed a lucrative deal to play for the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons.
Stephon Marbury’s position was at point guard. And since he was naturally bigger and stronger, he didn’t need much to dominate rest of the Chinese players in the same position as him. However, his time with Shanxi was short-lived because he decided to move on to a more lucrative deal with other teams.
Ultimately, he would play the rest of his career for the CBA’s biggest team, the Beijing Ducks, where he put up some insane numbers: he won three championships with the Ducks in 2012, 2014, and 2015; he also won the Finals MVP award in 2015.
His contributions to the CBA have led to Marbury becoming one of the biggest sports stars in China and even more popular than some of the local basketball talents. And even though Marbury is no longer an active player in the CBA, he still lives in China, working as the head coach for the Beijing Fly Dragons.
He’s a beloved icon in the Dragon Country of China and has earned the respect of fans, players, and coaches. Marbury’s contributions to the sport have been invaluable; without him, we might not have seen the same level of interest in basketball as we do today.
So, if you’re asking: Why did Stephon Marbury go to China? The answer is quite simple: It’s because, in China, he’s found place, people, and a culture that embraced him as one of their own.
Wrapping Things Up: What Happened to Stephon Marbury?
Marbury’s success in China is proof that he wasn’t out of the league for lack of talent. Instead, he was not able to find a basketball system in the United States that could maximize his talents. After leaving the NBA, Marbury found a home in China, where he succeeded as a player and later on as a coach.
Marbury’s story is also a warning to the NBA that mental health issues can easily derail a player’s career and cut short what could have been a Hall of Fame career. Fortunately, it’s a story that ends on a happy note, with Marbury finally finding the right situation to succeed and thrive.
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