Stephon Marbury is a champion.
After three years in China playing for the Chinese Basketball Association, Marbury has led the Beijing Ducks to the CBA championship. Marbury scored 41 points in the final game and was hoisted into the air by his teammates afterward as the crowd erupted. The smile on his face was one of pure joy. Accomplishment. Freedom.
Behind that smile is a man who has had quite the 16-year pro career. From the NBA to China with plenty of controversy along the way, it was lovely to see Marbury's name being mentioned in the news because of his success.
Remember the UStream days? Me neither.
As someone who grew up on SLAM magazine and Scoop Jackson, Stephon Marbury (and by extension, Coney Island) is as much a part of my youth as any other NBA player, and regardless of what he's dealt with off the court and despite the struggle, personal strife and questionable decision making, I'm always going to root for him and wish him the best.
When Marbury went to China, I don't think any of us could have predicted that it would have lasted three years. I'm almost positive that none of us thought he'd be hoisting a trophy and kissing a championship medal while being a champion of the people. Not because he didn't have the talent—he's always had more than enough of that—but because it sometimes seemed like Marbury was his own worst enemy and that he'd never be able to fit the pieces together.
Watching the video (via Ball Don't Lie) of him smiling while raising his arms into the air and motioning for the crowd to make some noise, those tumultuous last years in the NBA fade into the background. Instead, we get to see Marbury the scorer, the enigmatic and entertaining showman. It's fun, isn't it? Forgetting about the past and focusing on his present. While a CBA championship isn't quite an NBA championship, this is one that he's earned on his terms, leading his team, doing things his way.
I'm glad. This is about more than basketball. Marbury looks right again. He looks at home among his many adoring fans. Most of all, he looks happy. Sometimes things do work out. Even if it's not the way we would have expected.