Winning come with perks. After leading the Beijing Ducks to their first Chinese Basketball Association championship, Stephon Marbury was honored with a statue. Then he got a book deal. After championship No. 2, he was made an honorary citizen of Beijing. After championship no. 3, in which he was selected MVP, he's now on a Chinese postage stamp.
Don't look now, but a basketball dynasty is blossoming in Beijing, and the only man who was brash enough to dream it -- to, indeed, articulate that dream -- was the pride of Coney Island, Stephon Marbury.
The Xinjiang Flying Tigers may have lost the CBA championship to the Beijing Ducks, but Xinjiangers around the world came away from the games with a powerful meme. It came at the end of Game 5, after the Tigers rallied and pulled off an improbable win in front of a hostile Beijing crowd of 18,000. Shiralijan, the star Uyghur point guard for the Tigers who had been tasked with defending Stephan Marbury -- the star of the Ducks (and best player in the league, according to Anthony Tao!) --threw the ball in the air and raised a twirling, emphatic fist:
The Beijing Ducks won the CBA championship last night in Xinjiang, beating the Flying Tigers 98-88 in Game 6. Here are some photos and a video of the celebration. The top image, by the way, is now Stephon Marbury's profile pic on Sina Weibo:
Beijing is again king of Chinese basketball. The Ducks beat the Xinjiang Flying Tigers 98-88 tonight in Urumqi, clinching the CBA championship 4 games to 2. Stephon Marbury and Randolph Morris, who played so shockingly poorly in Game 5 in Beijing that I heard more than one person say they threw the game (14 points each, combined 7 for 38 from the field), redeemed themselves by scoring 28 and 30 points, respectively.
The Xinjiang Guang Hui Flying Tigers are flying high. Riding the phenomenal success of their imported stars, Americans Lester Hudson and James Singleton and a Taiwanese player named Yang Jinmin, the support of China national team players such as the Uyghur point guard Shiralijan (Xi-re-li-jiang) and the Han center Tang Zhengdong, they're back in the Chinese Basketball Association finals for the fourth time in six years -- but the first since 2011, when Quicy Douby took them within two wins of a championship.
Believe it or not, a 37-year-old point guard from Coney Island, New York who played 13 years in the NBA is putting the city of Beijing on his back.
With one CBA championship on his resume -- and a statue outside MasterCard Center -- Stephon Marbury already is a Chinese basketball living legend. So what happens if he wins another, all while averaging 28 points per game this postseason on a bum knee?
The professional basketball team in Beijing is called the Ducks, but I don't see why. It should be the Beijing Stephon Marburies. There is no player more valuable to his team -- not Yi Jianlian for Guangdong, not Doug McDermott for Creighton, not even LeBron James for Miami -- than Marbury is to Beijing, and if you needed any proof, just fire up last night's decisive Game 5 of the CBA semifinals, which saw the Ducks beat the Guangdong Southern Tigers 110-102 in Dongguan.
Nick Bedard of Basketball Buddha is courtside on press row at MasterCard Center, aka Wukesong, for tonight's Game 4 clash between the Beijing Ducks (23-11 regular season, No. 4 in standings) and Guangdong Southern Tigers (30-4, No. 1). Thanks to an epic performance from Stephen Marbury on Saturday in an overtime win, Beijing currently has a 2 games to 1 lead in this best three-out-of-five series. We now join our regularly scheduled Bedard in progress.