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Oklahoma City Thunder: Sebastian Telfair hopes time in China helps rejuvenate once-promising NBA career

Sebastian Telfair’s high school career was so celebrated that he was featured in a documentary titled, “Through the Fire.” Now, as a 29-year-old, Telfair has been through the professional fire, and he says he’s better for the experience.
by Anthony Slater Published: August 2, 2014
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photo - Phoenix Suns' Sebastian Telfair, left, stops his drive against Dallas Mavericks' Brandan Wright (34) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Phoenix Suns' Sebastian Telfair, left, stops his drive against Dallas Mavericks' Brandan Wright (34) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Telfair is no stranger to international basketball. He once visited his brother in Greece, where he played professionally. And Telfair’s cousin, former NBA star Stephon Marbury, has been tearing up the Chinese league for a few years now. Marbury even had a bronze statue erected in Beijing after leading his team to a title.

So Telfair went overseas with an open mind. He embraced the new culture and said it helped him grow as a person.

“I was the different one,” Telfair said. “Instead of being from the states and being from New York City, more of a common person, you’re in China where you stick out like a sore thumb. You gotta start over, learn new things, eat new food. It was great for me. I’m so happy I went over there.”

And it helped his game, too. For the first time since high school, Telfair had the freedom to show off his creative playmaking skills. He averaged a league-best 26 points and six assists per game, rediscovering his confidence along the way.

“I was able to prove things to myself, getting an opportunity to play 30-something minutes a night, just go out there and hoop,” Telfair said. “Your team expects you to be a guy who scores 30 points a night for you to win. That was a big part of me going down there. Just to get that opportunity to get my legs back up under me.”

And now he returns to the NBA a more grounded individual. He turned down a two-year, $7 million deal in China for a $1.3 million veteran’s minimum deal with the Thunder. He’s behind Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson on the point guard depth chart, knowing a feature role doesn’t await.

But he brings a grateful mentality to a locker room full of young guys who have only experienced success.

He’s been on losing teams. He’s been forced overseas. He’s been through the professional fire. Now he just craves a minor role on a title contender.

“At this point, I’m putting that all behind me,” Telfair said of his NBA struggles. “I got a new lease right now with OKC and I’m just working hard. That’s the most important thing.”

by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as NewsOK.com's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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