Chinese hoops fans, “”don’t fill their souls with negativity,” claims Coney Island native Stephon Marbury, who has somehow segued from Mike D’Antoni’s least favorite member of the New York Knicks to something of a fan favorite in China. Starbury, “is happy to be in a country where people clamor for his autograph” claims the Washington Post’s Andrew Higgins.
Marbury won’t comment on how much he earns with the Foshan Dragon Lions, saying only that “it’s not $20 million.” But his NBA-honed talents, which far outshine those of his Chinese teammates, could bring a hefty payoff from a line of sneakers he’s hoping will take off in China.
He also rejoices at no longer being hounded by media reports of wayward off-court antics, such as an alleged fight on a team plane with his former NBA coach.
“None of that stuff is true,” said Marbury. True or not, Chinese fans don’t seem bothered.
“I don’t care about his reputation in the U.S. I only care about his performance on the basketball court,” said Lin Weichen, a basketball student at an all-sports high school in Foshan. “For us, it is a rare and precious experience to watch an NBA player play basketball.”
Late last month, the Dragon Lions played at home in Foshan, a sprawling industrial city north of Hong Kong, and got hammered by a squad from Hangzhou. The result didn’t dim the ardor of supporters. “We all love Ma-bu-li. He plays great, and he looks so cool,” gushed Yuan Tianqiao, a 15-year-old fan who with some friends waited excitedly outside a makeshift locker room in the hope of getting an up-close glimpse of the heavily tattooed former NBA All-Star from Brooklyn.
Marbury’s team, defeated Sunday by Fujian, has now lost six of its past eight games.