Stephon Marbury was an NBA lottery pick, a two-time All-Star, and played in the league for more than a decade. But after a highly publicized split from the NBA in 2009, Marbury found himself in China, where he became one of the most popular athletes in the country.
Even before becoming an international star, however, Marbury didn’t feel anger toward the NBA.
“At that time, I didn’t have an opportunity to really feel that,” the 40-year-old Marbury said in studio on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I was depressed during that time. I was dealing with losing my father, and I was just trying to create some balance in my life during that time. Basketball came about. I had the opportunity to play again, and it was the opportunity for me to build my brand. I just had a lot of things that weren’t going in the right direction for me at the time, so when I went there, I just went there with a completely open mind. I just wanted to play basketball, and I wanted to build my brand. That was my mind-frame and my mindset. When I was there, I didn’t have no preconceived notions about what could possibly happen. I was just going to do something different.”
Marbury became a six-time Chinese Basketball Association All-Star, a three-time CBA champion, and, in 2015, was named CBA Finals MVP.
But even Marbury couldn’t have predicted the success he would have.
“Nothing was clear,” he said. “It was just the opportunity about playing basketball and building my brand and getting back into a realm where I can start doing something. I was really in really a depressed state after losing my father, my aunt, my coach – all of those different things at one time in one month. It was a lot. It had a big effect on me as time went on. We all grieve completely differently, so for me during that time when I left, I was just in a mind-frame of ‘I need to do something. I have to do something different.’”
Marbury was in a rut, unsure of his next move.
“It was a time where I didn’t want to do anything,” he said. “I just wanted to sit still, be by myself, be with my own thoughts and not deal with it in a way where it became a thinking thing. It started to become, ‘I have to do something. I can’t just sit in this space and continue to live . . . how I’m living. I have to continue to move forward.’ And in order for me to move forward, playing basketball was one of the outlets because that was something that I loved to do. Trying to get back into that realm, you got to sweat, you got to work out, you haven’t been training – it’s a variety of different endorphins that start to come alive once you start doing that.”
Ultimately, one of Marbury’s friends nudged him back toward basketball. Once Marbury did that, the game became therapeutic.
“When I continued to do that, I had the opportunity to see myself again,” he said. “And once I started to see myself again, that’s when I was like, ‘Okay, I can do this.’”