Stephon Marbury is a veteran basketball star, member of the 2004 Olympic team and an international headline maker. He spent 13 years in the NBA after being drafted fourth overall in 1996. Now after his fourth season in the CBA and a 2012 championship win, he has found himself, and is following his dreams for the future. In an interview with HERE!, the former NBA All-Star talks about discovering his true path and puts an end to online rumors.
How important is Dongguan’s NBA Training Center to the CBA?
I think playing in the NBA, the skill level and the competition and the physical ability is just way higher, where as the guys here are still developing into those stages. But I believe that there is a younger generation that in the next ten to 15 years you’re going to see that new crop of the Chinese players continue to evolve, especially with the right teaching and with the infrastructure that is being built here in Dongguan. The boss really has a vision on what he wants to see in the future, and this legacy that he is creating is going to be pretty amazing.
I think one team is a dynasty that’s been built in the past years and they’re still good—and they will always have really good players because their organization has a really good infrastructure. And I think the Dongguan leopards, they’re in the process of doing something special here because of what they have here, they’ve got a variety where they can pick and they can actually groom and grow players from very young.
What will you teach the kids at the NBA camp? What is your biggest athletic/personal advice?
My personal advice is, always try to be the best person you can be. No one’s perfect but you got to try. Athletic wise is just to work hard maintain focus, concentrate and listen. Kids work hard and they’re being taught by so many different people coming in and out of this basketball school, teaching and showing them certain things. So when I work with the kids I stay on them on doing the right thing every time, over and over, because once they get into the game it’s a lot easier. You build the habit of knowing how to make moves and how to do certain things on the basketball court.
What is it that you have discovered about yourself in the last four years?
You’re some place totally different. It’s like a brand new life. Adapting and adjusting to something totally different, from the food to the language barrier. The difference in people in the different parts of china has been kind of humbling, and for me it’s been pretty graceful in the fact of being able to adjust in such an environment other than the environment that I’m used to.
Your brand markets to underprivileged sport fans. Did you consider the need outside the U.S. at conception?
Growing up the way I grew up, it was ideal for me to want to allow people the opportunity to buy something at an affordable price. So coming to China and doing what I’m doing and playing basketball and being able to do my brand has been good because it is giving people the op- portunity to see both sides of who I am, as a human being and as a basketball player.
Do you get to Dongguan to do factory visits?
Yeah. I’ve been here before and in Fujian. I’ve been in the south in some of the high-end factories and even in some of the low-end ones. It was a great experience be- ing able to see how everything is made. Going from the beginning to end, all the way up to the boxing part. It was vital in my business in knowing how things have to go in order to be successful. Which is not as easy as you would think. It’s a huge, huge process, you can basically see the whole puzzle, but the puzzle is still apart. You still have to put the pieces together, but you can at least see the big picture of it.
Do you think your life here is more aligned with how you see yourself?
I think my life was in line when I left. I just think that I had some situations from some of the things that I’ve done. I’m not perfect at all, by far, but you know I owned up to the things that I’ve done. And coming here I just feel like it was a fresh start. Back at home, playing in the NBA, it was different. I think moving forward in my career, as far as playing and then eventually coaching, everything is moving in the direction that it is supposed to be moving. I feel like we are all where we are supposed to be when we are supposed to be there. I don’t feel that coming here was an accident, I felt like it was something that was supposed to happen in my life.
Do you consider playing in the CBA a different chapter in your basketball career, or as a different book in the life of Stephon Marbury?
I didn’t know what it was going to be like, I just put my faith in God and I just trusted in the decisions that were made. I felt like when I came here I had no clue of how it was going to be perceived and how people were going to look at me from what other people have written or what they said. I’ve never really cared about what people write or what they say because nine times out of ten it’s about telling a story to make money—especially in America—to sell newspapers, magazine or whatever. For myself, I always stuck to the truth of what was going on.
You will be coaching Beijing in the National games, tell us about that and how it came about.
I made it clear that I wanted to be here and that I wanted to coach the Chinese National team. I wanted to be a part of the infrastructure. It’s a continuance of growing in basketball, and as I said, China has played a major part in my basketball career. It has not only helped revitalize a section of who I was as a basketball player, it’s given me a different mind frame and a different fortitude towards playing the game. I never trained the way how I trained in the NBA the way how I train in China, so my focus, my discipline went back to how I was when I was younger. I was able to tap back into that because you don’t practice as much and you don’t do the same things as you would do here. Doing what I’m doing here, it helped me understand the game deeper. Now playing the game is a lot easier for me.
I want to be able to help the team win a medal, because that’s their ultimate goal. And that will continue to build success over the years. All of this is in preparation of one day helping young players reach that goal and to become a Chinese National team player, and one day winning a medal. For the teams that are playing in the CBA, of course, winning a championship and playing at a high level, but getting those different teams the best players to be able to pick from, and have those guys go on one team which is the National team. That’s pretty much their NBA. For them to reach the goal of putting themselves in the position of possibly winning a medal, that will be the ultimate success. Whereas winning a championship in the NBA that’s our ultimate success of winning for the team.
Are you taking this time at the NBA training center to practice the skills needed for coaching?
I’ve been doing it all my life. It’s nothing for me to get them to do that, to get them to go at a high level. See, all of these kids, they watch me play so they’re seeing me in two different lights, one as a player—and as a coach. I’m not the conventional coach who is teaching them how to do something that can’t do it. I can go do what they’re trying to do at the same speed, probably faster, at the age that I’m at. And they know all of this, so they know my story. What it is that I’m doing here is just for me to show them, and tell them that “I can do this, you can do this.” It’s just you putting forth the work.
Is there a difference between the Tigers and the Ducks fans? Who has the best fans in the CBA?
I think the fans here are a little bit more laid back. This is really a big basketball town in Guangdong. During the finals last year, when we played in the finals. It just seemed like the crowd they’d get into the game at the end because they kind of expect to win. I’ve seen that before but not in the play-offs. The fans are very knowledgeable they really understand who can play and who can’t play. It’s not like back at home where you get SportsCenter and you see all of the teams play and everybody is watching at 9 o’clock or 6 o’clock during peak hours when the news comes on. They go by data based upon what’s put on Weibo and they dictate how a person plays based on their numbers.
You have been very optimistic for the future of the CBA, what’s the next step in international standing?
You can see by the players that have been attracted to coming here, it’s in a process of continuing to grow because globally people are recognizing the CBA as a market. And once you become a market that’s when people want to be in that market. They want to be a part of it, and I believe in time the ratings will continue to change and evolve and the flaws will change. They have Li Ning and UPS and all of these different sponsors that are sponsoring the CBA. They are growing because the league is starting to become magnified because of the foreign players and the Chinese players that are getting better.
Rumors say that the Celtics want you next season. Is there a good chance you’ll be back in the NBA?
Nah, I have no desire to play in the NBA anymore. I did that. It was great. It was a great stepping stone for what I’m doing here in China. I mean not only is this where I want to be, this is where I’m supposed to be. Playing basketball here in China has given me different opportunities to do different things here. Especially for the future of what it is that I want to do.