While Jeremy Lin has become an NBA sensation, Knicks reject Stephon Marbury has been tearing it up on the other side of the world, dominating the Chinese league and developing his own cult following.
"Linsanity" is competing with "Marbury madness" in China after the Brooklyn native led the Beijing Ducks to the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) championship semi-finals in style.
On Sunday, Beijing beat Zhejiang 105-91 to win the best-of-five quarter-final 3-0, propelled by a 14-point third quarter from Marbury including a thunderous dunk, drives to the rim and a pair of laser-guided three-pointers.
For some, the heroics have even eclipsed those of Lin, a fellow point guard who has captivated audiences in China and his parents’ homeland Taiwan with his fairytale emergence from bit-player to superstar at the Knicks.
"I’ve been watching what [Jeremy] Lin Shuhao is doing in the NBA, but Marbury is my hero," one supporter, Meng Zhaoping, told AFP.
"The main reason a lot of people are coming to the games is to watch Ma Buli," he said, using Lin and Marbury’s Chinese names.
The Knicks gave up on Marbury in 2009 after a spat with coaching staff, but his play and that of other imported players has long been key to the development of China’s future basketballers.
While the CBA’s level is far below the NBA, the tattooed Marbury, 35, has stood out this season, and he added to his legend with Sunday’s monstrous, two-handed dunk which was endlessly repeated by Chinese media.
The former NBA All-Star and multi-millionaire has adjusted well to China after arriving in 2010, manufacturing his "Starbury" brand of basketball shoes in Chinese factories and selling them online.
He writes a regular column for the English-language China Daily and has more than 200,000 followers on his Twitter-style microblog. Marbury, whose Chinese name is etched on his forearm, one day hopes to coach in China.