Former NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury was in the Philippines last week for the third time this year. He spent his time in Manila doing charity work by donating 600 pairs of his signature shoe line, Starbury
On his final night in Manila, I had the chance to have an exclusive interview with Marbury on my show, The Factory, which airs on Mellow 94.7, where he candidly talked about his experiences as a player in the Chinese Basketball Association and watching a PBA game live. He also shared his insights on his time in the NBA and where he sees himself and his brand in the future.
You caught the semifinal game between the Petron Blaze Boosters and the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters last night. From your experience, what can you say about professional basketball in the Philippines?
MARBURY: It was really intense. The guys really got after it. And it looked like a playoff game, how the game was supposed to be played. There was a lot of physical play, a lot of fouling. The refs were good about how they made calls at their discretion. It was cool to be able to experience it. I’ve been hearing a lot about basketball here in the Philippines and it was good to finally see it.
As a player from the Beijing Ducks of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), what is it about playing China and the CBA that keeps you going?
MARBURY: I like the growth and the development of China. Every year, it’s in a constant moving of growth and being a part of that has been great for me because I’ve gotten the opportunity to be a part of something that’s in the process of growing globally. And it’s being recognized around the world, where people are recognizing the Chinese Basketball [Association], and I’m just humbled and happy that I’ve gotten the opportunity to be there and do that.
After you won the CBA championship in 2012, you couldn’t win the MVP because of a rule that prevents foreign-born players from winning the award. So the guys from hoopchina.com started an online campaign to build you a bronze statue to commemorate you. How does it feel to be celebrated in China like that?
MARBURY: I’m deeply humbled by it. It was from the grace of God to have the opportunity to be exposed to the world that way. For them to do that for me has been monumental in my life. To be immortalized and living is just a blessing from God.
You’ve been playing in China since 2009 when you started out in ShanXi, have you learned some Chinese since then?
MARBURY: Dui (“对” the Chinese word for “yes” or “correct”). I’ve learned a little bit.
So you’re a bit conversant now in Chinese?
MARBURY: Dui. A little bit.
Do you have a Chinese name already?
MARBURY: Ma Bu Li. (马布里) That’s what they call me.
Can you write it down yourself?
MARBURY: I can, but it’s sloppy and bad.
You’re also here to promote your signature shoe line, Starbury, which has been around since 2006. Where do you see the Starbury brand moving forward?
MARBURY: It’s a movement. I see a movement all throughout Asia. Now I’m trying to go to all the ASEAN countries. The Philippines, being the first place among the ASEAN countries, to start it here. Eventually, it’ll spread all over the world. What I’m trying to do is just create access for all to give people an opportunity to be able to have something at an affordable price.
Kids buying shoes for 150-200 dollars… I know it’s at their preference, but to be able to give the parents the opportunity to buy things for their children – the parents who really can’t afford – to give them the opportunity to buy something at that price range, from 15 to 30 dollars, is very important and vital to me.
I come from very poor areas in Coney Island and Brooklyn. I grew up poor, food stamps, that’s what fed me. I’m one of those kids and my parents were like those parents who are out there now, who are struggling, trying to help make ends meet and try to provide for their children. I was one of those children, so for me, it’s really deep to my heart, where I find myself doing something that’s meaningful and I’m behind a movement that’s trying to create something really positive.
Let’s talk a bit about your NBA career. Who was your favorite teammate when you were playing in the NBA?
MARBURY: Probably Kevin Garnett. KG and I, we had a really great experience playing with each other despite what people may have thought. When I left Minnesota, it had nothing to do with him and I. It was more about my preference and the way I wanted to live.
During those times, at nineteen years old, deciding to stay in a place where you weren’t really comfortable as far as living where I was living. In Minnesota, it was forty below [zero], it was predominantly white, I went from New York to Atlanta, where Atlanta is predominantly black, living in New York with so many different ethnic backgrounds, and then going to a place where it was predominantly white, it was kind of challenging for me when I was younger. That’s why when I left; Kevin was probably the one I was closest to because we knew each other from high school.
Who was your biggest rival in the NBA?
MARBURY: Probably Gary Payton, Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd, Steve Francis, all of the top point guards, all of the guys that were great point guards during that time. Those guys were the guys who were the toughest to play against.
Point guards tend to learn the most from their coaches, so under which head coach did you learn the most?
MARBURY: For me, Flip Saunders was the best coach I’ve ever played for. He gave me the foundation of how to play the point guard position in the NBA, basically learning the angles, where and how to come off pick and rolls. We watched a lot of film together. He taught me so many different ways of how to play the game.
In China, are you able to transfer that knowledge and mentor the younger players there?
MARBURY: Of course. I’m constantly doing that. I’ve been doing that since I was in the NBA. Anybody that needed help, whenever they would ask me, “When you come off the pick and roll, you do this,” being a good pick and roll guy is predicated on knowing how to score the basketball because if you know how to score it, you know how to create.
You’re always constantly teaching and in China, in the future, my goal and my plans are to coach the Chinese National Team. That’s something that I want to do. They know my commitment towards doing that. Teaching has been something that I’ve been doing since I’ve been in China. It’s a constant thing that I’m working towards.
What’s next for Stephon Marbury?
MARBURY: Well, just to continue evolving. I’m in a constant state of mind of trying to continue to evolve as a human being and as a basketball player: to continue to be the best person I could possibly be. I’ve learned a lot from my past and growing to be able to know that my past is allowing me to be better in the future. And in the present, establishing who I want to be and what I want to see in the future in the world.
Playing basketball and [building] my brand, those are the two most important things, of course my family, too. But doing those things are the most important to me.
NBA.com Philippines would like to acknowledge Ms. Tina Maralit of the National Press Club of the Philippines and Ms. Sheryl Reyes for helping us arrange the interview.