Nothing makes a pro basketball player happier than scoring and winning. In China, Courtney Fortson is doing just that.
It’s a cold and foggy November night in China’s capital, Beijing, and Fortson is warming up with his 6-1 Guangsha Lions. He smiles rotating between layup lines barely hitting the rim as he swishes 25-foot jump shots. As the first quarter comes and goes, Fortson finds himself ice cold. It doesn’t seem to be his night. But something is different about him. He remains not calm but positive. While his game face is on, he’s smiling on the inside. A scary sign for what’s about to come.
It’s halftime; Fortson’s Lions are up 48-43. For Beijing, this is nothing new. They are used to crawling their way back at home. Earlier this year; they came back after being down 25 in the third quarter to beat the Qingdao Eagles. But Fortson has other plans for the home team. He would go off to hit 8 of his 13 three pointers in the second half including one from the CBA at half court logo to lead his team to a 110-85 win. As he smiles and heads to the locker room, his teammate Eli Holman says, “somebody carry his bags to the bus.” A normal gesture for somebody who just scored 49 points in one of China’s toughest places to play.
We caught up with Courtney Fortson after the game in Beijing to talk about his journey and his all-time performance.
“He’s been very impressive coming into a new league adjusting to the physicality of the game.” – Top basketball insider following the CBA.
When Fortson first got to China he was relatively unknown to the Chinese fan base who caters to NBA superstars and every teammate who’s ever played with Yao Ming (Fortson signed a ten-day contract with the Rockets one-year after Yao’s retirement). But now, the dreaded hair 28-year-old from Montgomery Alabama is making a name for himself in China. Guangsha is now 7-1 with Fortson running the point.
A top basketball insider who follows the CBA closely praised Fortson’s ability to keep his team on the same level, “For his first year being in China he’s been very impressive coming into a new league adjusting to the physicality of the game. He’s a tough kid that plays hard but has to get his Chinese teammates involved more. He has a really good group of Chinese players around him and will need them later in the season and into the playoffs.”
In high school, Fortson’s speed on the court didn’t match the speed of Jefferson Davis High in getting him scouted so he moved to North Carolina where he would team up with future NBA star Hassan Whiteside.
In 2008, Fortson would put on an Arkansas Razorbacks jersey after a promise was made by the University of Arkansa to start him his freshman year. But it was his sophomore year that put Fortson on the pro basketball radar making all-American second team while sitting out the first nine-games of the season. Going undrafted in 2010, Fortson took the D-League route before turning his career into an overseas pro basketball player.
Now, Fortson is in China catching people by surprise. Stephon Marbury, all-star point guard for the Beijing Ducks was one of those people caught by surprise when Fortson went head-to-head with the three-time champion. Marbury finished with 16 to Fortson’s 49. After the game, Marbury didn’t speak to anyone while Fortson was all smiles.
Again, nothing makes a pro basketball happier than scoring and winning.