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BEIJING - The year of 2012 means a lot to Chinese basketball, which witnessed Beijing claim its first ever CBA league title in 17 years and the national team drop to last place in the Olympics.
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. [Related: Beijing Ducks claims first-ever CBA title]
Beijing Ducks players celebrate their first-ever CBA title after beating defending Guangdong Hongyuan in the best-of-seven final series in Beijing on March 30, 2012. [Photo/Xinhua]
In the past 16 seasons, Guangdong and Bayi, or the Chinese Army, 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 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 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.
Stephon Marbury poses in front of his life-size bronze statue built by fans in commemoration of his contribution to the Beijing Duck's first-ever CBA title outside the MasterCard Center in Beijing, May 13, 2012. [Photo/Asianewsphoto]
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 one million of my fans would unite just to have a life-size bronze statue built of me. (I'm) the first foreign born person ever to receive this most high honor. Never, in my lifetime did I think something like this would happen. And to be here to see it. This is just amazing," Marbury said during the donation ceremony.
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 be fulfilled by any NBA players, not Michael Jordan, not Kobe (Byrant) or (LeBrone) James."
Along with Marbury's sweetness and happiness, this summer, London fiasco became an unforgettable bitter memory for Chinese basketball.
From the first defeat to Spain to the last beating by Britain, the Chinese team exited the Olympics 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 over dependence 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, or WCBA, too.
WNBA 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 321 million US dollars five-year sponsorship agreement with the CBA League.
Meanwhile, tickets soared as a Qingdao Doublestars ticket increased from 200 yuan to 500 due to the arrival of Mcgrady.
If you want to get a closer look at T-mac, a VIP seat on substitute bench is available, but that will cost you 10,000 yuan ($1,604).
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