When Stephon Marbury came to the Chinese Basketball Association in 2010, it appeared to be a last-chance money grab for an NBA castaway whose skills -- and options -- were in precipitous decline. Those suspicions seemed to be confirmed after the Brooklyn, N.Y., native exhausted his welcome with his first two CBA teams.
But since joining the Beijing Ducks last year, Marbury has completely transformed his image in China by availing himself to the public like no athlete before him. Even more improbably, he's inspired a perennially mediocre team into a title contender.
Led by Marbury, the Ducks have advanced to the CBA Finals for the first time in franchise history, where the four-time defending champion Guangdong Southern Tigers await. Game 1 of the best-of-seven series tips off Wednesday at Beijing's MasterCard Center.
Now Marbury -- Coney Island folk hero, McDonald's All-American, ACC Rookie of the Year, fourth overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, two-time NBA All-Star, member of Dream Team IV -- finds himself on the brink of his first championship in a mercurial pro career that's spanned 16 years, eight teams and two continents.
Seven thousand miles away from the O'Dwyer Gardens court that spawned him, Marbury has managed to realize the most American of dreams: a clean slate.