Stephon Marbury Finding Success and Serenity in China

Or maybe Marbury was simply content.

“I have no complaints,” he said. “I’m blessed; life is good.”

On the court, Marbury is the catalyst for the undefeated Beijing Ducks of the Chinese Basketball Association, who are off to their best start in 16 years. They won their sixth game Friday, defeating Kenyon Martin’s Xinjiang team, 99-97. On Sunday, they defeated Shanxi, 121-92, with Marbury scoring 19 points. He is averaging 22.3 points, 5.7 assists and 1.9 steals a game for the Ducks, who signed him in August.

Marbury, 34, is flourishing off the court as well. He said acclimating to a new culture was the best thing about this part of his odyssey, which has taken him from Lincoln High School on Coney Island to Georgia Tech to the N.B.A. After an often-tumultuous 13-year , Marbury said that in China, he had found a home, a revitalized career. He maintains residences in Los Angeles and New York, but China, he said, is his soul’s new resting place.

“It’s just something about the serenity and peace of the country,” he said. “I can’t really explain it; you’ve got to experience it.”

Marbury is in a great space: his own driver, an apartment in Beijing in the equivalent of the Wall Street district and a team that could help him win his first pro basketball championship.

“I never thought in my life that I’d end up going to China and wanting to spend the rest of my life here,” he said.

Marbury also writes a weekly newspaper column in China Daily. Given his often contentious relations with the news media in the United States, this gig is one of the greatest punch lines of the new chapter of his life.

“It’s beautiful when you can tell your own story,” he said.

Other former N.B.A. players are playing in China. During the recently ended lockout, four-high profile players signed with Chinese Basketball Association teams: Martin with Xinjiang, Wilson Chandler with Zhejiang Guangsha, J. R. Smith with Zhejiang Chouzhou and Aaron Brooks with four-time defending champion Guangdong.

Unlike players who signed with European teams, the players in China are contractually obligated to play the entire Chinese season, which ends in March.

What may come as the biggest surprise to those who remember Marbury’s N.B.A. days is that he has become a bridge over troubled waters for Chandler, Smith and Brooks. He helped Brooks, formerly of the Houston Rockets, and Chandler, formerly of the and the Denver Nuggets, adjust to the food and nuances of China. Marbury talks with Chandler every other day.

Marbury even recently counseled Smith, a former Nugget, after he had clashes with his team, which threatened to void his contract. The team suspected Smith was purposely missing practices and games once he realized he would be held to his contract.

“I spoke with J. R. and I told him to make himself completely vulnerable to love: embrace the culture,” Marbury said. “You’ve got to acclimate yourself to something different, you’ve got to grow into it — and then you get this stillness and calmness about yourself.”

That sounds good, though the reality is that Marbury, Smith, Brooks and Chandler are at different points in their careers. Chandler, Brooks and Smith are looking for big paychecks and the glamour that comes with being an N.B.A. player. Marbury, who has had all of that, was looking for a sanctuary.

His last three seasons in the N.B.A. were a nightmare, even as he fulfilled a boyhood dream of playing for the Knicks. He feuded with two Knicks coaches, Larry Brown and Mike D’Antoni, and had a falling out with his mentor Isiah Thomas.

As part of a sexual harassment suit against Madison Square Garden, Marbury had to testify under oath that he had sex with an intern. There was also a bizarre video he made in July 2009 in which he appeared to weep intensely and at one point ate Vaseline. Clearly, Marbury needed a change.

Marbury said the crying occurred because he was thinking about his father, Don, who died Dec. 2, 2007, during a Knicks-Suns game. “If you know anything about us, you know that my father was the leader at the helm of all of the Marburys,” he said. “He was the man, period.”


Correction: December 5, 2011

An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of a Chinese Basketball Association team. It is Guangdong, not Guandong.

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