June 22, 2017
Stephon Marbury Stars as Himself in Chinese Hoops Biopic
The trailer begins with a basketball player in an empty locker room, head bowed in concentration. Portentous trailer music swells. That's followed by exciting basketball footage, including an on-court scuffle. The star is shown to run the gamut of emotions, his face at times contorted.
A mentor touches his chest and tells him, "You've got to believe in what's here."
It could be any Hollywood basketball movie. But it's "My Other Home," the Stephon Marbury story. And it stars Stephon Marbury as Stephon Marbury.
"It was pretty interesting," said Marbury, the actor, by telephone from Shanghai. "It's something completely different, when the person's playing that person. When people look at me acting, they don't see someone playing a part. They don't understand that playing this role, it was complicated. I wasn't playing myself. I was playing a role."
Marbury, 40, has been a popular star in the Chinese basketball world since signing there in 2010. His American career had its ups and downs, often stalled by feuds and controversy. After stints with the Timberwolves, the Nets, the Suns, the Knicks and the Celtics, he rejuvenated his career in China with the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons and later the Beijing Ducks. He has also embraced Chinese culture. "It's just something about the serenity and peace of the country," he said not long after his arrival. "I can't really explain it; you've got to experience it."
His career soon expanded beyond the court. He wrote a column for China Daily. In 2014, he appeared in a musical, "I Am Stephon Marbury," that played in Beijing for 13 performances in front of 1,500 theatergoers a night.
Now it's the silver screen. "My Other Home," directed by Larry Yang, was shown at the Shanghai Film Festival earlier this week.
In English and Chinese, it tells the story of Marbury, focusing on his years in China. And it mostly sticks to the facts, Marbury said.
"It's basically what happened," he said. "It's the truth. Certain things that happened, like when my father died, were a little different, but 95 percent is the truth."
His father, Don, died Dec. 2, 2007, after attending a Knicks-Suns game.
The supporting cast is familiar to basketball fans as well. Allen Iverson has a cameo as himself. Another former player, Baron Davis, appears as, according to Marbury, "a guy who is like the foreigner of the other team who we played against to beat in the championship."
While Marbury modestly awards his own acting skills a "four or five," he said: "Baron was like an eight or nine. He's really good."
Looking to appeal to every demographic, the film also features Jessica Jung, a former member of the K-pop group Girls' Generation, as Marbury's manager.
"The people loved the movie," Marbury said after the festival. "This will give people an understanding about what happened. It's inspirational. When you hear about a black guy with a statue in Beijing, they wonder how a foreigner comes to a country and receives all these high honors."
There is indeed a statue of Marbury in Beijing. "People say it doesn't look like me," Marbury said. "But I know it does, because I know the face I made when they made the statue."
Athletes have appeared as themselves in movies before. Gary Cooper played Lou Gehrig in "Pride of the Yankees" but Babe Ruth played himself. Jackie Robinson starred in "The Jackie Robinson Story," and the decathlete Bob Mathias in "The Bob Mathias Story." At the very least, casting an athlete gives the sports action sequences verisimilitude.
Marbury said there were differences between the N.B.A. and the Chinese Basketball Association beyond mere quality of play.
"It's pretty simple." he said. "The N.B.A. is man to man. In China, you can play box and one, triangle. The defense is harder. You've got to know how to score. If guys can't score but are great shot blockers, they can make it in the N.B.A. In China, you've got to put it in the hole." And Marbury can certainly do that, averaging 21.4 points a game last season.
Marbury and the Ducks have parted ways, and his plans next season are uncertain. But as for acting, the future is clearer.
"They're doing a sequel," he said. "I'm down for it."
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