Stephon Marbury arena football China

Stephon Marbury buys arena football franchise – in China

Following on from yesterday’s post about the growing trend of athletes becoming sports team owners, it can now be revealed that Stephon Marbury has purchased the Beijing Lions, a cornerstone franchise of the fledgling China Arena Football League

For those who only remember Marbury from his NBA career, this might seem to come out of left field, but the two-time All Star has been living in Beijing for the past six years, winning three CBA championships while playing for the Beijing Ducks. Despite turning 40 earlier this year, he’s showing no signs of slowing down: after failing to agree an extension to his contract with the Ducks, Marbury has jumped to crosstown rivals the Beijing Fly Dragons to play out what he says will be his final season in the league.

What’s more, he announced last month that he’d also like one more shot in the NBA, presumably after finishing the CBA season in early 2018. He told the AP he had already spoke to a team, but hasn’t disclosed which one.

And if that isn’t enough, he also posted this week about his latest shoe, a business he’s been involved with for over a decade.

As per CAFL Chairman Marty Judge in the clips below, the Lions have been valued at $5 million, though Marbury will have likely acquired the team at a substantial discount. According to his business manager, Gustavus Bass, Marbury one day plans to buy an NBA or NFL team, while also planning to remain part of the Beijing sports scene for a long time.

The benefits to the league are obvious, given Marbury’s stature in the sport. He had a 13-year career in the NBA, playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves, New Jersey Nets, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks and Boston Celtics, after being selected as the #4 pick in the 1996 draft, and though he left the league on less than stellar terms (to put it mildly), his transformation over the nine years he’s been in China has been astounding. Marbury will now use his brand to promote the league in China and also joins the CAFL board of directors.

The CAFL is heading into only its second season, so it’s still far from clear how well the league as a whole will perform in China over the longer term. But at a fraction of the cost that a NBA or NFL team would cost, Marbury clearly thinks that this financial risk is well worth taking.

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