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The Weibo Adventures Of Stephon Marbury And JR Smith

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Two men exchanged pleasantries via Weibo on Wednesday night, one complimenting the other on a job well done. So far, so normal, considering this is China’s leading social networking site, with over 25o million registered accounts. Yet the big difference was who was doing it; Stephon Marbury, two-time NBA All-Star, now with the Beijing Ducks, was congratulating  J.R. Smith, the former Denver Nugget, on playing his part in Zhejiang Golden Bulls’ victory over Guangdong Leopards that night.

Both men are the star name for their respective CBA teams, but their fates will differ after this season. Smith has already stated he will return to the NBA in the summer of 2012; Marbury will be 35 by then and the chances of finding a starting job back in America are unlikely.

Moreover, the Weibo feeds show the different adventures each man is having in China. Marbury, whose weibo address is in his own name, whilst Smith’s still has the serial code from its initial registration, posts pictures of himself on the Beijing underground on the way to practice, and can’t help himself from doffing his cap to his Chinese audience. He regularly posts pictures of himself with fans and showing a politicians touch for populatity, recently slammed current China coach Bob Donewald for his perceived mistreatment of Yao Ming. A fan asks him what his next move with be and the reply is imediate “I would Love to End My Career here in Beijing. That would be a Perfect ending [sic]“.

Smith on the other hand struggles to hide the fact that his time in China will be a year at the most. His Weibo account has recently been compelling viewing due to the American publicly arguing with his club’s owner over the internet about the physios he can use and Smith’s subsequent absconsion to Beijing. Determined and idioscentric like the majority of young, up-and-coming athletes, Smith’s recent behavior underlines the frustrations of a man who simply wants to play basketball and when not clashing with his boss about who can treat his injury, is knuckling down for a season of basketball and then retreating to his house away from the unpredictable country he has now found himself in. In the build up to his matches, he posts messages constantly- all he can think of is getting on the court and playing. In his downtime, he fires out questions about where he can buy Xbox 360 games in Shanghai or even where his nearest mall is, as if stocking up with supplies until the next game.

Both Marbury and Smith share a clear love for basketball but whereas the former is throwing himself into his new enviroment, the latter is simply trying to understand it. “Coming from the US it’s a 180 difference but being willing to understand an willing to learn is key![sic]“, Smith admits to Marbury in response to the latter’s post-game Weibo post. Marbury on the other hand, relentlessly lambasted during his later days in New York, seems liberated by the respectful passion of Chinese basketball fans and the aura of Beijing itself; “I’m so happy we have another game for all of Beijing to see. It’s a blessing playing basketball in China!”, he announces, shortly after professing his love for Beijing Guaon in the Chinese Super League. Another time, he appologises for not being able to oblidge all the autogragh hunters who find him in and around the city. He has business links here too, one of which is the online retailer for his Starbury brand of trainers and seems very much settled

Via Weibo, the outlook of the two men are easy to read. Marbury, a trailblazer for coming to China in the first place, may well become even more remarkable for staying in China. He has already talked about moving into coaching and has admitted to making notes and watching the technical bench from afar during the Ducks pre-season games, although its foreseeable that Marbury could be playing for a while longer. “When your mind is right, the body is easy to condition. CHINA gives me the peace within to have a clear mind and a free loving heart. I love China because of the peace and love it breeds[sic]” came another recent post. Smith, on the other hand, knows that his talent makes his antics tolerated but probably will not get away with it for more than one season, “Just want to say thank you to my teammates! I know I’m not the easiest to understand but they are willing to help me get threw everything[sic]“.

It’s unlikely that Smith will be posting notices on Weibo in 2013 but Marbury will hope to be around for a while longer, existing as a quasi-Yoda figure sending messages of support to  newly arrived NBA exiles but at the same time becoming further engrained in the city he now calls home.

Photo: china.org.cn

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