Chinese Basketball Association superstar Stephon Marbury continues to expand his business interests in his adopted second home, buying up a franchise in the fledgling China Arena Football League (CAFL).
Marbury has become the new owner of the Beijing Lions, CAFL chairman and founder Marty Judge revealed yesterday, adding that the team is valued at $5 million, a bargain compared to sports franchises in the US. Likely, Marbury even got a discount on that.
Judge says that he hopes Marbury will be able to bring his star power to a league that is not very well known in China. “He’s loved in Beijing, he’ll pack the place,” Judge said in an interview. “He’ll open the eyes of a lot of companies that are looking at what Stephon’s doing.”
The CAFL was formally launched last fall, but its second season has been pushed back until spring 2018. In the meantime, the league has added two new teams, bringing it up to a total of six (Beijing, Guangzhou, Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenyang, Wuhan). Each team is made up of 22 players, 11 Chinese and 11 foreigners.
Last year, Marbury’s new team won the title on the final play of the championship game. Something you probably have not heard about.
“Stephon is following in the footsteps of other NBA greats and business/team owners like NBA legend the great Magic Johnson,” said Marbury’s business manager Gustavus Bass. “One day he intends to buy an NBA team or maybe an NFL team. A CAFL team in Beijing is a natural fit for Mr. Marbury. This acquisition demonstrates his commitment to his second home and sports in Beijing. He wants to be a part of the sports scene in Beijing for a long time.”
After washing out of the NBA in 2009 following a tumultuous career, Marbury finally found a home in Beijing in 2011. In six seasons with the Beijing Ducks, he led the team to three championships (2012, 2014, 2015), successfully toppling the Guangdong Southern Tigers dynasty which had dominated the league since Yao Ming left for the NBA in 2002.
However, the 40-year-old Marbury parted ways with the Ducks earlier this year before signing with crosstown rivals, the Beijing Fly Dragons, for one last season in the CBA. Marbury has said in the past that after this year, he plans to go into coaching in the CBA, but seemed to change his mind last month, claiming that he was planning to make an NBA comeback instead.
Thanks to his play on the court, Marbury has become one of China’s most famous athletes, an extremely successful shoe salesman, and a beloved hero in Beijing where he has received the title of honorary Beijing citizen, his own series of stamps and even a statue outside the Ducks’ arena. Last year, he also became the first foreign celebrity to ever receive a Chinese green card. This year, he starred in his own biopic called My Other Home, chronicling his journey from the NBA to the CBA.
Still, even with all that success, trying to help make American football catch on in China may be the most difficult challenge he has faced yet.
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