Steve Francis Doesn't Look Like Steve Francis Anymore

Joe FlynnContributor IJanuary 11, 2014

The Chinese have a famous saying on where one should live (and die): 生在苏州,活在杭州,吃在广州,死在柳州 (be born in Suzhou, live in Hangzhou, eat in Guangzhou, die in Liuzhou). That final city, Liuzhou, is famous for producing China's finest coffins. 

How fitting, then, that this city in Guangxi is the setting for the most depressing photograph of a former NBA All-Star seen in quite some time—the ghost of Steve Francis, courtesy of the website Got 'Em Sports:

Yes, that is really Francis—college All-American at the University of Maryland, 1999-2000 NBA Rookie of the Year and three-time All-Star (2002 to 2004).

Those days of glory may seem like they happened a lifetime ago, but keep in mind: Francis is only 36 years old. According to Basketball Reference, 16 players of at least 36 years of age are playing in the NBA in 2013-14.

But Francis hasn't played a game in the league since crashing out with the Houston Rockets in 2007-08. He hasn't played anywhere on Earth since being cut by a Chinese Basketball Association team after just 13 days, 14 minutes played and two points scored, per Yahoo! Sports.

Francis is still known in China for his relationship to former Rockets teammate (and Chinese basketball legend) Yao Ming, and he can still earn appearance fees at small events in China, such as the one in the Twitter photo above—the Jan. 5 opening ceremonies of the Liuzhou weekend league. 

Francis headlined a group including former NBA players Renaldo Balkman, Dwayne Jones and D-Leaguer Paul Harris. The Liuzhou Basketball Club website refers to Francis as "Yao Ming's American big brother." 

Francis' Chinese reception in Liuzhou, though warm, is a far cry from what his former backcourt mate Stephon Marbury experiences when he goes to China. Like Francis, Marbury left the NBA with the reputation as a selfish, over-the-hill scorer.

But Marbury thrived in China, winning a championship with the Beijing Ducks. He is so popular in the country that the fans overrode a CBA rule forbidding foreigners from winning league MVP in an online vote, according to China Daily. 

In nine seasons, Francis averaged 18.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game.