Former NBA star Stephon Marbury buys China gridiron team

Shanghai (AFP) –


Former NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury will purchase the Beijing franchise of a fledgling American-football arena league, the league announced on Friday.

Marbury, who has starred in the Chinese Basketball Association since 2010 for several teams before settling in recent years in Beijing, has already announced that the coming season will be his last on the hardcourt.

The China Arena Football League (CAFL), which bills itself as the country's first professional American football league, said in a statement that Marbury, 40, has agreed to take ownership of the team as the first step in a next-stage career as a sports executive.

The CAFL's website lists the Beijing Lions as its franchise in the capital.

"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," the statment quoted Gustavus Bass, Marbury's business manager, as saying.

"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."

The point guard began his NBA career with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1996 and was later an All-Star for the New Jersey Nets and Phoenix Suns before joining his hometown New York Knicks from 2004-2009.

In 2010, Marbury jumped to China, playing first for Shanxi and Foshan before settling with the Beijing Ducks and sparking them to CBA crowns in 2012, 2014 and 2015.

Now one of the most popular basketball players in China, Marbury parted with the club in April and later announced he would spend his final season with the Beijing Fly Dragons.

The six-team indoor league fields a mix of American and Chinese players.

The American brand of gridiron football has traditionally lagged basketball and soccer in drawing a Chinese following.

But besides the founding of the CAFL, the NFL of the United States also has pushed aggressively in recent years to gain an audience as Chinese express growing interest in sports.