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Marbury's bitter Beijing farewell

By Sun Xiaochen | China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-24 06:54

Marbury's bitter Beijing farewell

Stephon Marbury in action for the Beijing Ducks in a CBA match against the Sichuan Blue Whales in February. Zhang Chenlin / Xinhua

Fans left fuming after Ducks deny superstar's wish to keep playing

Stephon Marbury's Beijing Ducks exit over a contract dispute has left Chinese basketball lamenting the loss of one's its biggest and best-loved stars.

The Ducks announced on Saturday that they had terminated the former NBA star's contract after negotiations broke down over his salary and role.

The 40-year-old, who led the Ducks to three CBA titles in the last six years, wanted to play for another season, however after missing out on the playoffs this year, the club only offered him an assistant-coach role.

Marbury, who joined the Ducks in 2011, signed a new three-year deal after winning his third CBA title in 2015.

According to Ducks deputy general manager Xie Haitian, the contract featured an option to retain Marbury as a player or hire him as a coach for the 2017-18 season.

Xie claimed Marbury's agent rejected an offer for his client to become a player-coach and that there was a "big gap" between both parties over the American's salary.

"Despite not wanting to see him leave, the club has to give up the option of keeping him with the Ducks based on the team's strategic rebuilding process and his personal will to continue playing," Xie said.

Marbury posted a statement on Weibo on Saturday, confirming the split.

"My team and I have been discussing this matter with the club for a certain amount of time so that a veteran's last wish can be blessed. That's why we offered the club options, including to cut 20 percent of my salary so that I could work as a player/coach in the coming season," Marbury said in the statement.

The post drew mostly angry responses from fans who sided with their hero.

One fan wrote: "We should've written a joint petition to urge the team to keep Marbury. To abandon a veteran like him doesn't help the team rebuild at all. His leaving will take away fan and media attention on the team."

The Chinese national wheelchair basketball team posted a picture of Marbury with its players on its Weibo account on Sunday accompanied by the caption: "Hero of Beijing Thank You!"

Marbury inspired Beijing to titles in 2012, 2014 and 2015 to become a huge fan favorite, while his celebrity blossomed off the court too.

The bronze statue in his honor outside the Ducks' stadium, the permanent-resident permit he was granted by the Chinese government and a soon-to-be-released movie based on his Beijing career, which premieres in August, are all testament to the Brooklyn-born player's massive popularity.

"The benefit he brought to the city is not only on the court," said former Beijing captain Chen Lei.

"It's embodied by the growing enthusiasm for basketball in the city, the positive energy in and outside the arena and the way he encouraged the young players with the team."

CCTV news commentator Bai Yansong believes the Ducks have handled the situation badly.

"The club actually missed an opportunity to maximize the influence of Marbury although business stands first in professional sports," Bai said in a qq.com column published on Sunday.

"Cutting him now won't result in instant effects of rebuilding a strong team next season while they could've made it perfect by keeping him for one more year before making him coach."

Marbury, meanwhile, plans to keep playing elsewhere.

"I am playing next year and then I'll retire, but you never know," he said.

sunxiaochen@chinadaily.com.cn

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