Beijing: Ex-NBA bad-boy Stephon Marbury will attempt to lead the Beijing Ducks to victory this week in their first ever Chinese finals, seeking to upset the mighty Guangdong Tigers.
Beijing face the four-time Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) champions — and their point guard Aaron Brooks, formerly of the Houston Rockets — in the best-of-seven finals starting Wednesday.
Marbury, a two-time NBA All-Star who played for the New York Knicks, has been instrumental in the Ducks’ run to the final.
On Sunday he scored a game-high 30 points, grabbed nine rebounds and dished out eight assists as Beijing beat Shanxi Brave Dragons 110-98 to win the best-of-five semi-finals, three games to two.
In each of Beijing’s two other semi-final wins, the star guard surpassed 50 points, an amazing feat for a 35-year-old.
“This is the best feeling I have ever had playing basketball. There is no better feeling than this — reaching the finals,” Marbury, his eyes tearing up with joy, told AFP after Sunday’s win.
“Since I came here, I said my goal was to make it to the finals. A lot of people said I was crazy, but this team showed me something totally different from the teams that I’ve been on in the past.”
Marbury has reinvented himself since arriving in China in 2009 following a tumultuous 13-year NBA career that saw supreme talent on the court, but often poor off-court behaviour and various spats with coaches and team-mates.
In China, the multi-millionaire has led by example, taking his gritty, muscular game and infecting a roster of young Beijing players with fight and tenacity.
He has also embraced the culture while working to sell his “Starbury” brand of shoes and sports apparel with a catchy “love is love” marketing campaign that reflects his feelings for basketball and the team camaraderie needed to win.
“This team has worked hard, they did the extra things, shooting the ball before and after practice, doing the extra running,” Marbury said.