Last week I suffered a great loss. There’s no real good way to put it: Stephon Marbury blocked me on Twitter. This means that I can no longer follow, mention or retweet him—three things that I previously loved to do.
All sarcasm aside, I do honestly feel like this is a personal loss. I enjoyed his Twitter for the same reasons that I enjoyed him in the NBA: The complete unpredictability, the unintentional comedy and the moments of absolute insanity. I would no longer be able to enjoy these things as I once did. It was truly a somber moment.
But while this was a personal tragedy of my own, Stephon Marbury had much greater things to worry about. In fact, Marbury was in the midst of arguably (and hilariously) some of the most important basketball games of his life.
This was the scene in the waning moments of the deciding semifinal game as the Beijing Ducks secured their berth in the CBA championship round. For the first time in his professional career, Stephon Marbury would be competing for a championship.
With this potentially being the greatest accomplishment of Stephon Marbury’s professional basketball career, the question must be raised: What the hell happened to this guy? And more importantly: Why did he block me on Twitter?
Stephon Marbury is perhaps one of the most confusing characters that professional basketball has ever seen. His transgressions are well documented, but he was once upon a time touted to be the future of New York point guards.
As a 16-year-old, many NBA scouts believed that at his age he was the most talented and fundamentally sound player they had ever seen. Stephon was able to hold opposing defenses hostage just as well as he was his own locker rooms.
He played 12 seasons in the NBA—all of them controversial. He constantly butted heads with coaches, teammates and front offices—all while managing to be one of the premier talents in the league.
When his insanity began to outweigh his contributions on the floor, the patience of those who once tolerated him began to wane. The last straw was his very famous feud with Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni that was prolonged over the course of multiple seasons. Eventually Marbury wore out his welcome, and the NBA cast him to the wayside.
With his life in tatters, Stephon Marbury sought a change. He needed a new place to ply his trade. His search yielded the Chinese Basketball Association. For Stephon, not only did China represent the opportunity for a fresh start, but it also represented an entry point into one of the biggest basketball markets in the world.
Since there was seemingly no place for him in the United States, the decision was easy. China would be his new home. And the Chinese fans quickly embraced him as their own.
Stephon had moved from a Country in which he felt he was misunderstood to a country that literally did not understand him—from one form of confusion to another. The transition was understandably a lonely one, but from his loneliness Marbury began to discover the joys of social media—most notably YouTube.
This would be an incredible development for both fans and curious onlookers alike. His thirst for attention and our desire for more of his bizarre antics would be satisfied over and over and over again. Starbury quickly became the Internet freak show that we all needed to watch.
On Twitter, Marbury is candid almost to a fault. But to his credit, he is very active with his fans regardless of what they have to say. And never being short for words, Marbury took full advantage of what was to be a low point in Mike D’Antoni’s career.
It was the night that Mike D’Antoni had stepped down as Knicks head coach. Having just heard the news, Marbury went on one of his classic no-holds-barred rips. Stephon has repeatedly blasted Mike D’Antoni both personally and for his merits (or lack thereof) as a coach. He often takes joy in the failures of Coach D’Antoni, and actually predicted that he would be fired at some point this season. Marbury had this to say about his resignation:
Coward's Step down men knock walls down that men like him post up. I told you'll about that dude but you'll didn't listen. #DANPHONY
So, instinctively, I wanted to alert all who would listen that my man Stephon was in the midst of a Marbury Moment. (Please bare in mind that the 140 character limit that Twitter imposes often requires grammatical sacrifice.) I tweeted out, and to my surprise the man himself responded:
@Aliyaho [D'Antoni] did that to himself by pulling a move like that. He has no fight in him as a man.
I’m not going to lie, this was exciting. Sure it was just Twitter, and sure he interacts with many fans. But in that moment it felt like Stephon Marbury was telling ME that Mike D’Antoni was a coward. I was flattered like a schoolgirl who had just been asked to the prom.
However, in the interest of being professional and potentially pulling out a story of some kind, I composed myself. Referencing his sketchy track record with coaches, I asked if he would like to change anything about his career. Marbury responded with this:
@Aliyaho no I have a history of going to teams where its a mess before I get there and I’m made the bad guy and I didn’t mind. 1st and 15th
Ain’t it the truth. 1st and 15th That’s the Marbury that I know and love.
Unfortunately, that would be the end of our conversation. I asked him for an interview since he had been so forthcoming with his opinions to that point, but I can only guess that Marbury was offended by the request. He had blocked me. It was later brought to my attention that Stephon Marbury doesn’t do anything less than a cover story. His paranoia with North American media is rightfully justified, given his past.
For the record, I would have given Starbury the cover story.
So that was it for Marbury and me, but that wasn’t it for Marbury. He was about to embark on his first championship conquest. I read about how he reacted when he earned the right to play for the Mou Zuoyun Cup, and despite his harsh dealings with me, I couldn’t help but feel proud for Stephon. He seemed genuinely happy. And so was I.
The truth is that despite his acts of social media insanity, Stephon Marbury has experienced a major personality change in China.
Parts of the old Marbury still make an appearance here and there, but it seems as though Stephon recognises the gravity of the opportunity he has in front of him. He has a shot at rewriting a part of his history and changing his personal perception. This is his chance to right some wrongs.
In his column for a Chinese newspaper, he extols the virtues of love, meditation and understanding of others. Does that sound like the Stephon Marbury that you know? Maybe he’s finally starting to get it. He seems to have found peace in China.
In the CBA Finals, Stephon Marbury and his historically bad Beijing Ducks were set to play Aaron Brooks and his historically great Guandong Southern Tigers. It would be a classic No. 1 seed vs. No. 2 seed, best-of-seven series.
The first game started off chippy, with Marbury going straight after Brooks with a knee to the face. And it stayed chippy when the Southern Tigers retaliated by body-checking Marbury in the middle of a jump shot. The Chinese guy (who happens to be a member of the national team) can be seen calling Stephon a b***h, as Marbury nervously adjusts his elbow brace.
Ultimately the Ducks went on to win the first two games of the series, but dropped the third. Marbury is a mere two wins away from proving to the world that he is a champion. And more importantly, he is a mere two wins away from proving to himself that he is a champion. The changes he has experienced personally in China are now translating onto the basketball court.
I hate to say it, but I think Stephon Marbury has found his home. China is a country filled with people who cannot understand a word that he says, yet they love him unconditionally. In China, the only language Stephon can speak is basketball, and fortunately for him, basketball is his first and most fluent language.
Stephon Marbury has somehow warded off the evils in his life and has found solace in the orient. It may seem odd, but I now feel more invested in Stephon Marbury than I ever have before.
I wear the fact that I was blocked by him as a badge of honor. I have to be honest, it is oddly flattering. I wont even try to pretend to love Marbury for his merits as a basketball player—that ship sailed a long time ago. But as a human being and all of the flaws that come with being one, Stephon Marbury deserves his shot.
Marbury has found his place in China, and I have found myself a hero. Unfortunately, it’s not a mutual respect, but that’s just Marbury and me.
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