Stephon Marbury (left) of the CBA team Beijing Ducks Photo: IC
The year of 2012 means a lot to Chinese basketball, which witnessed Beijing claim its first-ever Chinese Basketball Association (CBA)league title in 17 years and the national team drop to last place in the London Olympic Games.
The year also welcomed NBA superstars Tracy McGrady and Gilbert Arenas to join the Chinese league and commemorated Stephon Marbury with a bronze statue.
Marbury, who had never played in NBA or CBA finals before the year 2012, vowed to win a league title when he came to China three years ago and his dream came true with Beijing.
In the past 16 seasons Guangdong and Bayi won eight and seven titles respectively, with the remaining one going to Yao Ming's Shanghai Sharks in 2002.
"I kept my promise," said Marbury. "When I first came to China, I promised that I can take a CBA championship.
"Thank the guys to give me the power to be able to keep playing on the basketball court, and have a wonderful year in China."
Having dumped his "bad boy" image, Marbury enjoys his new life in China.
"I have a different life in China, and I cherish this opportunity," he said.
The New York-born guard has become an iconic figure in Beijing, with his new book Read My True Story Then Judge Me published, his basketball clinic opened and his statue set up. He won love from his fans besides tons of glory.
"Play hard with my friends and win the championship, that's the most important thing in the world," said Marbury, who averaged 33.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.8 steals during the finals.
Marbury's life-size statue
Marbury was voted by Chinese Web users as the Most Valuable Player for the league finals of CBA. In a poll of 240,000 fans, 90.7 percent selected the former NBA star as the MVP of the best-of-seven series, in which Beijing Ducks won 4-1 over the defending champions Guangdong Hongyuan.
Marbury, however, wasn't able to receive the MVP award from the league as the CBA rules that only domestic players are eligible as candidates.
But a life-size bronze statue of Marbury donated by over a million Chinese fans was finally set up in the Wukesong Stadium in Beijing. The statue will be a permanent part of the city to memorize the historical moment and the contribution Marbury had made.
Chinese sports website hupu.com once initiated a poll in an effort to build a statue for Marbury, and promised to donate the statue if it received a million votes from fans.
The website received more than 1.02 million votes in seven days.
"I could have never imagined that more than a million of my fans would unite just to have a life-size bronze statue built for me. (I'm) the first foreign-born person ever to receive this honor," Marbury said during the donation ceremony in the Wukesong Stadium on May 13.
Dennis Rodman, former Chicago Bulls forward, said, "Here we see a former New York Knicks player who transmutes his life in China. His achievement here was never fulfilled by any NBA players, not Michael Jordan, not Kobe (Bryant) or (LeBron) James."
National team and the league
Along with Marbury's sweetness and happiness, this summer, London fiasco became an unforgettable bitter memory for Chinese basketball. The Chinese team exited the Olympic Games with five straight losses and a bottom finish out of 12 teams.
It was the worst performance since 1992. All the problems were laid bare after the retirement of Yao Ming, the seven-time NBA All-Star and the most famous center in Chinese basketball history: lack of solid basic training, insufficient physical confrontation and overdependence on Yao.
Back home, the Chinese league is flourishing.
No one had ever imagined years before that three-time NBA All-Star Gilbert Arenas would come to play in the Chinese league, let alone the seven-time NBA All-Star and twice NBA top scorer Tracy McGrady.
Good things happened to the women's league WCBA, or Women's Chinese Basketball Association, too.
WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association) first pick Maya Moore has raised the underdog Shanxi to the half-way champion with a clean sweep.
With excitement getting higher for Chinese basketball, Chinese sportswear giant Li Ning signed a 2 billion yuan ($320 million) five-year sponsorship agreement with the CBA League.
Meanwhile, tickets soared as a Qing-dao DoubleStars ticket increased from 200 yuan ($32) to 500 due to the arrival of McGrady.
Xinhua - Global Times