There's been a lot of discussion about Amare as both a player and as a person in the past few threads. Seth's post in the Kings preseason game preview inspired me to post what I had written in my blog the day after he left. I don't actively blog anymore, but whenever I look back on it, it feels like I'm going through a bit of a time machine.
This does not have much or any relevance to this season's Suns, and I understand if nobody feels compelled to read this. I just thought it would be worth sharing. It was written as a cathartic exercise for me, similar to my thoughts on Nash.
Written July 6, 2010:
As of today, Amare is officially a New York Knick. It's very weird for me to think about. Now that it's official, I find myself getting rather nostalgic(a frequent vice of mine).
It's hard for me to put into words what exactly the Phoenix Suns mean to me. I understand that they're just a sports team. I understand that, like everyone in the entertainment world, the members of the squad are completely overpaid. I understand that there are issues out there that are infinitely more important then whether or not the Suns will ever win a championship. With all of that said...they do mean something to me. They are not just a team; they are a passion that I can share with friends and family.
My life is full of Suns-related memories, and the large majority of them include friends of mine who shared those memories with me. Due to the nature of my fanhood(obsessive...), the Suns are pretty closely woven into the fabric of my life. If you try to get a hold of me from October to May, there's a pretty decent chance that I'm watching/listening to the Suns game, usually with a companion or two. As such, it's hard for me to separate the highs and lows of my days from the highs and lows of the Suns season.
Amare's departure deserves a lot more then I'm planning on writing here right now. I've linked to countless FreeDarko posts that waxed poetic on just what exactly he means(meant) to The Association, what he gave to us. I don't have the time or resilience to go back and look through 4(or is it 5 now? wow) years of entries to find them, but if you've been reading for the past half-decade, then you'll know what I'm talking about.
This is the story of a man named Amare. He grew up in a broken home. His father passed away when he was just a boy. His mother was not in any shape to take care of him. He practiced the beautiful game for years on end, and when he worked out for the Suns in 2002, Jerry Colangelo knew. He knew that this man had the potential to change the face of the Association forever; the potential to revolutionize the way that a big man played. Drafted by the Suns, he quickly wowed fans with his otherworldly power and ferocity. He dropped 38 points and 14 rebounds on Kevin Garnett, as a 20 year old rookie. He won ROY over Yao Ming. The next season, his game expanded, putting up 21/9 as a 21 year old rising star. In the summer of 2004, the Suns reacquired point guard Steve Nash. Amare never had a point man like Nash, and Steve had never been gifted such a prodigious finisher as Amare. Their tandem set the league on fire, and over the next five seasons, they would remain an unstoppable offensive force that changed the league. Amare overcame injury after injury, revamped his game after the microfracture surgery cruelly robbed him of much of his otherworldly athleticism, and bounced back to star in All-Star games and collect multiple All-NBA honors. And then...it was over.
I'll remember so many moments with you, STAT. Your 38/14 game against KG? I was stunned. Your first dunk on Yao Ming? I leaped out of my chair. Your posterization of Michael Olowokandi? Legend.
I'll remember your banked 3 as a rookie to send Game 1 of the 2003 first round series against the Spurs to overtime.
I'll remember you stealing the show from Carmelo/LeBron in the rookie/sophomore game to win the game's MVP honors.
The 2004/2005 season was like one giant Amare highlight reel. Your reverse dunk on Mutumbo's head made me laugh, because it just seemed so improbable, yet you attempted it anyways...and you finished it! I'll always remember your game-winning block against Brad Miller's Kings that season. I'll remember a sequence against Dallas where you completely dominated the game for a 3 minute stretch...dunk, block, jumper, block, dunk, rebound...
I'll remember when you dropped your first(and only) 50 point game against Portland. It made us wonder if you even HAD a ceiling.
I'll remember the dunk contest, when you and Nash teamed up for one of the most entertaining dunks I've ever seen.
I'll remember you skying over Adonal Foyle, smashing him into the ground. Twice. In the same game. He later said that he donated his body to the Amare Stoudemire Foundation for Science.
I'll remember how you challenged Stromile Swift in the post after receiving a pass from Steven Hunter. He went up; you went up. He went up; you went up. He went down; you went up. You smashed it on his head.
I'll remember the playoffs, where you humiliated Pau Gasol, made Dirk Nowitzki a non-factor, and dropped 37 ppg on Tim Duncan in his prime.
I'll remember how happy I was when I heard you re-signed with Phoenix for a max deal in the summer of 05. We looked to be on the brink of basketball immortality, and you were a big reason. You were a basketball Adonis. Relentless athleticism and power tempered by grace and fluidity...you were a marvel. A specimen.
I'll remember how completely devastated I was when I got the text that you had to undergo microfracture surgery. I remember exactly where I was. I was in my "Love in World Religions" class freshman year of college in the ILC. I got the text. I made a sad face. I went online immediately and blogged about my heartache.
I'll remember how my friends and I took your knee injury so, so personally. Candle-light vigil, anyone?
I'll remember how excited I was to read that you were coming back early for the 05/06 season. I remember that I was with my chem study group in Wilbur's underground. I remember ditching them to go to the TV lounge so I could watch your first quarter back. Your first points of the 05/06 season were on a jumper. You ended up with 19 or 20 points that game, maybe 10 points in the first half. I remember running up to a friend with this with a huge smile on my face that day, and I remember his reaction: "Amare's back."
I'll remember how sad I was to hear that 2 games later they were shutting you down.
I'll remember how much you had seemingly improved in the 06/07 season. The inhuman athleticism was no longer there, but the player that emerged from that ordeal was much, much more complete. You made All-NBA 1st team honors that season, and I was proud to be an Amare Stoudemire fan.
I'll remember how you stood up for your teammate after he was hip-checked into the scorer's table in Game 4. I'll also remember how you committed a charging foul on Kurt Thomas in the closing minutes of Game 6. I'll remember your expression after we lost that series.
I'll remember how you averaged 29/9 after Shaq came in the 07/08 season. I'll remember your dunk on Dwight Howard in the New Orleans All-Star Game.
I'll remember your 49 point, 11 boards, 6 assists, 5 steals, 2 blocks game against Indiana. It was(and remains) the finest game of your career. You showed that day that you had what it takes to truly be a HOF player.
I'll also remember how you failed to rotate on Tim Duncan and left him open for a three that deflated us completely. I'll remember how you referred to Coach D'Antoni in the past tense, two days before he even knew he was going to New York.
I'll remember how you scorched the nets for 42 points in our first game back to "Seven Seconds or Shaq" during the 08/09 season. I'll remember thinking that, hey, if you play like that, we're winning the title this year. I'll remember hearing that your retina had been detached while I was in my Japanese Pop Culture class. There was no Boris to replace you. The season was lost.
I'll remember how you took it upon yourself to act like a true team captain this season. I'll remember your dunk on Richard Jefferson. I'll remember your dunk on Anthony Tolliver. I'll remember how you lit the league on fire during the second half of the season. I'll remember how happy I was that you were getting back to your HOF-potential self. I'll remember how confused I was(and still am) looking back at your 2010 playoffs performance.
You were an incomplete player. You don't defend, but you can. You don't rebound much, but you can. You don't pass, but you can(really...you can.) And yet, I can't say that you were lazy. You worked tirelessly each offseason to improve your game somehow. You became an incredibly polished offensive weapon. You came back from an injury that completely ruined the careers of hall of fame players before you, and you brushed off a retinal detachment. Ultimately, Amare, I'll remember that you were one of the most exciting players to ever wear purple and orange. You were our Sun. You've been a fantastic part of my life for the past 8 years, and I will always remember you.
STAT, Man-Child...it doesn't matter what you call yourself. Amare, here's to you.