I had no idea things had gotten this bad for Stephon Marbury:
His New York fans may have deserted him, but Stephon Marbury is already winning new friends in this grimy coal city in northern China.
"Ma Bu Li," as he is now known, on Wednesday began an unlikely career with the Taiyuan Shanxi Zhongyu Professional Basketball Club, one of the worst teams in the league. He is the biggest National Basketball Association star ever to have played professional basketball in China.
Back home, Mr. Marbury's run-ins with coaches and teammates at the New York Knicks and other teams battered his reputation. After terminating his contract in New York early last year, Mr. Marbury played briefly for the Boston Celtics, and according to Zhongyu, he accepted an offer to move to China after he didn't get a satisfactory offer in the NBA.
But his falling out with the Knicks was not publicized as much in China as it has been in the U.S. Though die-hard Chinese fans say they are aware he has had less playing time in recent years, Mr. Marbury's reputation as a top-notch point guard is still relatively untarnished here.
The 32-year-old posted a greeting to Chinese fans on his blog Tuesday, attracting more than 4,000 subscribers within hours. One user posting under the name JohnLee7125 wrote a response to Mr. Marbury that said: "I think you can do better in China, because we love you."
Mr. Marbury is hardly a China hand. "I really didn't know that much about China other than what I've seen on TV" about Chinese NBA star Yao Ming, Mr. Marbury told reporters Tuesday night when he arrived at his hotel. "I thought this was the right place to be."
Once Marbury gets himself situated, he should be fine. All he has to do is pass and remember to praise his teammates and everything will be gravy for him. The rest of the world will move on, and I highly doubt whether he will ever play in the NBA again.