Stephon Marbury does not have fond memories of the 2004 Olympics or of his former coach, Larry Brown.
Marbury says that on the first day of Olympics practice, Brown asked his players—a group that included LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson—to state their goals for the tournament.
“By the time he got to me, everything was said that needed to be said,” Marbury says. “So I said, ‘Let’s also not forget that we need to have fun.’ And Larry goes, ‘Huh. Listen to this guy, talking about having fun!’
“Marbury was stung and embarrassed by Brown’s condescension. He calls the Olympic experience, ‘The worst 38 days of my life.'”
A year later, former Knicks president of team basketball operations, Isiah Thomas, hired Brown to be the head coach of the Knicks despite protests from Marbury.
“I begged Isiah not to bring him to the Knicks,” he told Matthews. “It was just unbearable, man. Nobody wanted to play for him. The whole energy was terrible. But it was the environment he wanted. Misery.”
That particular brand of misery only lasted a year, with Thomas taking over as head coach after Brown left the team. But as Matthews noted, “Marbury’s relationship with his successor, Thomas, also soured and when Mike D’Antoni took over and gave Marbury’s starting job to Chris Duhon, the kid who had always wanted to be a Knick now wanted to be anything but.”
That was the beginning of the end for the two-time All-Star’s NBA career. He played 23 games for the Boston Celtics in the 2008-09 season before taking a year off. Marbury, once one of the NBA’s brightest stars after relatively successful stops with the Minnesota Timberwolves, New Jersey Nets and Phoenix Suns, was now out of the league.
That prompted his move to China. His first two seasons in the Chinese Basketball Association with the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons and the Foshan Dralions, respectively, ended in disappointment. But then he caught on with the Beijing Ducks in 2011, and now he’s become a legend in the country. He led the team to three championships and was the CBA Finals MVP in 2015.
“China is the best,” he said. “Since I moved there my life has been amazing. The best time of my life. Not even close. I guess this was how it was all supposed to go down.”
He continued: “Going to a foreign country, winning championships, having a statue, getting a green card, the key to the city, a museum… That’s not something I can say I could ever see happening.”
Those experiences changed Marbury’s perspective on life and even on the former team that caused him so much misery.
“I still want to see the Knicks do well, I do,” he said. “I promise I do. That’s my team. After all the stuff that happened, people say to me, ‘You still like the Knicks?’ Well, that’s just the way it is. That’s what happens when you’re a kid. Your team is your team, and everything is die-hard.”
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