Stephon Marbury wants to make an NBA comeback, or at least he said so on social media, but what remains unclear is whether any team will grant the 40-year-old former All-Star point guard his wish.
Since last playing in the NBA in 2009, Marbury has played the past six years in China, becoming a beloved figure in Beijing after leading the Ducks to three Chinese Basketball Associations championships between 2012 and 2015. In addition to becoming the first foreign-born player to earn a “permanent residence card” in the country, he was rewarded with a postage stamp, a bronze statue, a museum, a musical (starring Marbury as himself) and a feature-length documentary on his life.
Marbury parted ways with the Ducks in April over a contract dispute and announced plans in July to play “my last and final season” with the crosstown rival Fly Dragons. The CBA season generally runs from late October to late February, at which point Marbury would be free to sign with an NBA team.
On Tuesday morning, Marbury posted a cryptic tweet suggesting he was considering a return. “It’s time to combine,” he wrote. “My next move is the best move. Working on the comeback to the NBA.”
— I AM PEACE STAR (@StarburyMarbury) September 12, 2017
He soon made his intentions clear on Instagram. The following is an edited version of his comments:
“I’m making an NBA comeback for the fans who want to see me play my last year as a pro. After hearing so many people say come back, I finally prayed about it and gave it major thought. I thought the perfect ending would’ve been retiring with the Beijing Ducks, but it’s clear the GM had other thoughts, which is fine. My love for the Ducks will always be A1 from Day 1. I still have a lot of go in me as a player, and at 40 being able to play at a high level is a gift. Being able to stay mentally focused and physically fit takes a different type of discipline. I’m motivated to make this the best year of my career as I end a 21-year long journey in the game I love.”
“Yes, it’s true, an NBA comeback is coming,” Marbury added in a video accompanying the post.
Marbury averaged 21.4 points, 5.5 assists, four rebounds and 1.7 steals, while posting a 57.8 true shooting percentage and 20.4 player efficiency rating over 36 games for the Ducks last season.
The CBA statistical leaderboards are littered with NBA players who flamed out and found success in China, including a 28-year-old Jimmer Fredette, who posted averages of 37.6 points (60.5 true shooting percentage), 8.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.6 steals for a 28.7 PER on the Shanghai Sharks in 2016-17.
Should he defy the odds of returning to the NBA, Marbury would be nine years removed from his last game for Boston, where he averaged 3.8 points and 3.3 assists in 18 minutes off the bench for a contender. His basketball career seemed over months later, when he lit up a joint and admitted on camera, “I smoke marijuana,” but his rise to fame in China has been nothing short of remarkable.
Still, Marbury turns 41 on Feb. 20, meaning a return would make him the NBA’s second-oldest player, less than a month younger than Vince Carter. So, again, it’s unclear if any NBA team would sign him.
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