Toward the tail end of Stephon Marbury's NBA career, he was a model of what not to do.
Fast forward five years and Marbury has just been named as one of Beijing's 10 model citizens for 2014, following an online vote. In addition to his two CBA championships with Beijing, the statue erected there in his honor, and being granted honorary citizenship of the capital, it is a turnaround as impressive as it is surprising.
Furthermore, this latest award has nothing to do with his basketball exploits. The criteria for judging these model citizens concerned an individual's positive contribution to the city, and especially their influence on the public sense of morality.
Americans who haven't followed Marbury's career since his ignominious exit in 2010 would surely think this is some sort of joke. But Marbury's charitable contributions to sick children and rural schools, among others, won him this award .
Philanthropy is still in its infancy in China, and well-known charities such as the Red Cross have been hit by high-profile corruption scandals, making it even harder for the concept of giving back to take a firm foothold here.
Marbury's fellow model citizens include a teacher, a taxi driver and a bus attendant; he is, by some distance, the most famous individual on the list. That does not make him a better man than his peers, but his charitable exploits will be noticed by a far greater audience, simply by virtue of the spotlight in which he lives his life, and that is surely something to commend him for, especially when it appears only scandal can catapult celebrities into the news headlines nowadays.
Marbury has certainly had his share of negative headlines in the past, but the point is that his U-turn has happened both on and off the court. The Associated Press, a media outlet more known for its political coverage of events in China, even featured Marbury in a glowing profile a few weeks ago, and that was before the Chinese press jumped in with their praise for Marbury's latest award.
Marbury turns 38 in a few weeks' time, and though he remains the heartbeat of the Beijing Ducks, it would seem logical for his leadership role to continue from the sidelines after his playing days come to an end. His current contract will keep him in Beijing until 2017, and Marbury has made no secret of his desire to coach in China, a country where he says he plans to spend the rest of his life.
The Chinese national team has had American coaches in the past, but Marbury would be a popular choice. While Beijing is where he has thrived the most, and, in return, where he feels the most love, his embrace of the entire country and its culture has earned Marbury fans across the land.
One thing is clear: If the public had anything to do with it, Marbury would already be the Chinese national team coach.
Original title by Sina: Marbury’s star power keeps on growing