Writer Anthony Tao, on assignment for Deadspin, checks in with our old pal Stephon Marbury, who recently played his first game for the Chinese Basketball Association’s Shanxi franchise. Marbury, it seems, is already incredibly popular in China, where he poses for photos, signs autographs, and smiles while he does it. His popularity, though, isn’t just a product of his NBA résumé: Shanxi fans are actively seeking a savior, because their team is near the bottom of the league’s standings. There’s a consensus among team supporters that the coach should be fired. If only Marbury had any experience with such a situation.
Of course, not everything’s the same for Steph in China. For starters, there’s a perception among fans that he’s a changed man on the court, and that instead of a shoot-first point guard, he’ll be more of a team player now. (For the record, with his team down by one in the final seconds of his first game, Marbury dished the ball to an open man, though he didn’t really have much choice: The defense was swarming him.) Over there, he’s nicknamed the Lone Wolf, though Tao explains that popular opinion says the moniker doesn’t really apply anymore. Zach Galifianakis would be proud.
Oh, another difference from the NBA is one even more significant than the firewall that will sadly keep Marbury off of Twitter while he’s there: Chinese fans throw crap onto the court, and it’s not all that big a deal. Our favorite scene in Tao’s piece involves Marbury smirking while lighters fly from the stands. Even the eccentric Marbury must realize that just one game into his Chinese career, he’s already seeing things he’s never seen before. And in Marbury, so are those fans.