Amare Stoudemire retired on Tuesday of this week, putting another nail in the coffin of the Seven Seconds or Less Suns that revolutionized the NBA.
Stoudemire himself redefined the power forward/center position in the early-2000s from being a big back-to-the-basket bruiser to being an epically mobile face-up-and-driver.
I never had the pleasure of covering ANY of the Suns luminaries as a media member, including one Amare Stoudemire. By the time I first stepped into a Suns locker room as an objective media member in October 2012, gone were all the sure-fire Hall of Famers.
And Amare Stoudemire has to be a basketball Hall of Famer, right?
He’s certainly a Suns Ring of Honor deservee...
So now I’m stuck in this middle ground where I’m struggling to properly cover Amare’s retirement. Because I’m now three years into this credentialed media thing, I have a hard time being a crazy fan anymore. And I also have a hard time speaking as a media person about anyone I haven’t actually covered this way.
So, I humbly request some time to let this reality sink in: that the three players who brought me deepest into my Suns fandom are now all retired from the NBA. I need to process this.
In the meantime, we bring you a veritable plethora of the BSotS luminaries to give their insights into STATs time as a Phoenix Sun.
Let’s walk down memory lane together.
- What one play sticks out most in your mind when you hear Amare’s name? Good or bad. Just ONE PLAY.
Sean Sullivan: For me it is the savage dunk all over Anthony Tolliver. It was the perfect dunk, at the perfect angle, and against the perfect ‘defense’ to make it all work just right. Amare’s younger years had plenty of posters, but this was my favorite.
Kellan Olson: I’ll go with another savage dunk and the better one, which is the one on Michael Olowokandi. It’s the best dunk to show the player Amar’e was before the injury. He had the perfect combination of speed, bounce, and power. Plus, you get one of the best dunk reactions of all time with Starbury at the end. It’s a thing of beauty.
Mike Lisboa: The dunk on Anthony Tolliver. It summed up everything aggressive and explosive about Amar’e Stoudemire. In the post game interview, when asked what went through his mind at the time, Stoudemire responded “My first thought was ‘I hope he jumps.’” When defending Stoudemire, they all jumped and they all lost.
Seth Pollack: So you guys are going to make me be the hater here? I LOVE Amare. LOVE HIM. And those dunks were amazing. But the one play that sticks out in my mind is Tim Duncan’s three and Amare’s blown defensive assignment. Oh wait, that was Shaq and not Amare which proves the point that Stat was unfairly criticized for his defense (it was actually the switch on Finley’s three that Amare blew).
(Ed. note: I TOLD you I would insert videos of the plays you guys mention, Seth. Everyone blame Seth for this one.)
Jim Coughenour: It will always be ‘the vicinity of the bench”. I think of this play whenever I think of not only Amare, but that entire era of Suns basketball... or the entire history of the team. The quest for the title has always been an almost but not quite situation. Whenever they get close kismet seems to intervene and crush my hopes. To be clear, I don't blame Amare and Diaw for squandering that opportunity. Robert Horry and David Stern instigated and grossly mishandled that situation, respectively. The worst thing about Stern's lack of discretion was the hubris and contumely he directed towards Suns fans in the process of making his heavy handed decision. I still believe that the Suns would have won the championship if it wasn't for that event.
2. Do you have better memories of pre-microfracture Amare or post-microfracture Amare’? Why?
SS: I actually have fonder memories post-microfracture surgery, because of the teams themselves, and his growth as a player. Amare became not only a ridiculous threat to dunk off the P&R, but also a lethal jump shooter from the elbow.
KO: Pre. I went to a lot of games with my dad in the 2000’s and the first time we saw Amar’e in 2006 after the surgery, we just looked at each other and shook our heads. We could tell right away he didn’t retain 100 percent of his athleticism, which is a testament to how much of a freak he was.
ML: Post. He got better at the game every time he came back from injury. After the first knee injury, he developed a silky jumper and became an offensive threat from anywhere inside the the 3-point line.
SP: Pre on the court. There was nothing like that. Not even peak Blake Griffin was that explosive, smooth and slithery around the rim.
J to the C: Post. Pre-microfracture Amare was obviously more of a freak of nature, but I felt that post-microfracture was more of a Sun. Facing the adversity of of injuries and heartbreaking losses over his time here never discouraged Amare. My favorite window of Amare's career was the end of the 2010 season when he was playing like an MVP candidate. Early in Amare's career I thought he was going to be the player who finally brought a championship to Phoenix and in 2010 I felt that way again.
3. Which BLOCK sticks out in your mind when thinking of Amare highlights?
SS: I’d be lying if I said that one block in particular comes to mind...I can just picture him staring down the block-ee after the play (it happened almost every time).
KO: Three different times he had a clutch block against the Kings to save the game.
ML: This block on Andray Blatche. And then the one after that where Amar’e clearly “hoped he jumped.”
(Ed. note: Yeah Seth! BLOCKS! How about this one?)
JC: I'm going to deviate slightly and go with a game instead of a single block. In 2004 Amare had 10 blocks in a game against the Utah Jazz. For some reason that game was the first thing that popped into my mind when I read the question... so why not go with it. One of the things that frustrated some people with Stoudemire was that he didn't put up great shot blocking or rebounding numbers comparative to his athletic ability. Not everyone is a rounded player. Rodman is in the hall of fame and he averaged more offensive rebounds than points four times in the 1990's while leading the league in rebounds.
(Ed. note: Sorry Jim I couldn’t find this highlight reel on youtube, but here’s game recap link.)
4. What was your reaction to STAT leaving for New York in 2010? Did you rejoice or cringe when he played like an MVP candidate that first year? Be honest here.
SS: I was upset. I understood the Suns’ decision not to match NY’s offer from a business standpoint, but as a fan it really sucked. I remember my son was playing at his summer camp that off-season, and he told all of the kids that he was going to stay. But, you know, money.
KO: I was mad about it because I was a young fan, but also being a fan who saw him live so many times, I could tell the toll his knees were taking and the reasoning wasn’t nonsensical. Still was mad, though!
ML: I was OK with the Phoenix Suns not offering him the full contract. They lost so much time with good players to Stoudemire’s injuries that they were right to be gunshy. I was disappointed that he left, but I understood both sides. I would have been more upset with his excellent play there if either: A) he’d continued to stay healthy or B) he’d managed to win them a ring. But in hindsight, the Suns probably made the right call.
SP: If there was only some way to know what I thought about it at time...like something I wrote maybe. That’s right, I am here just to remind you how long I’ve been here and to be obnoxious on demand. Here’s what I wrote in 2010:
I don't hate Amare for leaving and I wish him the best. He's a good dude; he always worked his ass off to improve his game and he did fantastic things for the Suns. He will be missed and not easily replaced (sorry, Hakim Warrick, and sorry, Gani Lawal).
[...]What is telling and completely cynical and therefore a fully acceptable target for mockery is his choice of destination: The New York Knicks and his old buddy, Mike D'Antoni. Amare has long said that winning was the number one priority, so his choice of new team is the Knicks, where they haven't won anything since before Mike D'Antoni could grow hair on his lip.
JC: Not bringing Amare back after 2010 was one of my biggest disappointments as a Suns fan. He was my favorite player on the team, probably my favorite Suns player ever. I thought they should have maxed him out at the time and I still would max him out if I could go back having the benefit of hindsight. The Suns window would have still been open in 2010-11. Ever since that decision the Suns have mostly been a giant bag of ass. If they kept Amare they would have had at least one more shot before we potentially got subjected to the same carnival of horrors of these last six years. I don't see how paying Amare to babysit the bench could have been any worse than what actually happened. I always cheered for Amare the rest of his career and didn't fault him for leaving. The Suns offered him a football contract and the Knicks offered a basketball contract. No sane person would have stayed under those parameters.
5. What is your reaction to Amare retiring as a Knick rather than a Sun?
SS: It bothers me. I know it’s petty (at least I think it’s probably petty) for me to be upset that he didn’t retire as a Phoenix Sun, but fandom is based on irrational emotions, and I'm within my rights to hold it against him. I don't care if he wanted to play another season in a Phoenix and might be doing this out of spite since the Suns didn't sign him...This was his home, and the team that he will be remembered with. It’s ridiculous for him to sign a one-day with the Knicks and retire there instead. However, this should have nothing to do with his inevitability in the Ring-of-Honor. That should, and will, happen regardless.
KO: That’s the way Amar’e rolls. He’s always been THAT guy and I’m not surprised about it and also don’t have much of a reaction. I still love him and am very excited to see him go into the Ring of Honor.
ML: It’s a diss to the organization and then a secondary diss to fans. It’s petty. I don’t really care. History will remember his career as a Sun first and a Knick second regardless of where he signed his final ceremonial contract.
SP: Agree with Kellan. That’s just Amare and there’s literally nothing that he could do to make me not love him. Not even this.
JC: Meh. He's a Sun and should be in the ring of honor. I do think this speaks to a larger problem with bad blood between the team and many of it's all-time favorites... Barkley, Nash, Majerle, Amare, Frye, the Morris Twins (hahaha). It just seems like a vexing pattern of things ending less than cordially. I'm also not terribly happy if it's true that Amare wanted to come back to Phoenix on a one year deal and the team rebuffed him. What would the harm in that be? Amare has always been a hard worker and good teammate. The Suns kept Markieff Morris around to start last season but Amare is going to poison the well? What about the (somewhat overblown) value of a mentor? It's not like Amare would have stolen minutes that teenagers Chriss and Bender absolutely need right away... plus he's only been playing spot bench minutes for some time now. Oh well, at this point I don't really know the whole story...
Bonus round: Anything else you want us to remember about Sun Tzu?
SS: Amare was an interesting player, both on and off of the court. So much ability, yet ultimately an incomplete player since he never learned how to contribute on defense. He had all of the requirements to do it, it was just never a point of emphasis for him, and ultimately, it may have been due in part to the way he was molded by D’Antoni’s 7-Seconds or Less Suns. Still, he was a joy to watch, and I loved rooting for him while he was here. Defensive liabilities or not, he’ll be remembered as one of the Suns’ greats...that’s how offensively dominant he was.
KO: At least 75 percent of this was Nash, but watching these teams taught me so much about spacing in basketball and how defenses move. As Sean pointed out, Amar’e did that a lot on defense by not being very good at it, well, ever. On offense, however, the combination of he and Nash showed how unstoppable the pick-and-roll can be when it has the right players doing it. Jacob Padilla tweeted earlier how the two had the perfect skills for the play and I agree. So fun to watch.
ML: That he tried on defense. He wasn’t good at it, but I think he tried his best. I wrote about it back in 2009. It’s a common narrative that defense is about effort and that if a player tries, it will show up on the court. I think if you look at how Stoudemire approached the game and his life, he was always trying to improve. I have a hard time believing he stretched himself in every way possible on and off the court, but just said “Aw screw it” when it came to defense. He wanted to be one of the greats and knew that meant playing both ends of the floor. He just wasn’t very good at one end of it, despite his best efforts.
SP: I have STRONG feelings about Amare. I absolutely love the guy. He’s truly one of the most genuine and well-meaning people I’ve ever met. He overcame an incredibly difficult childhood and family life and grew into a great man. I’ve seen how Amare treats people in real life situations and experienced his honesty and purity of heart and I am a better person for it. He had his limitations on the court to go along with his brilliance but what stands out is what a good, honest, and decent person he is.
Amare gives zero shits what people think about him and has been keeping it 100 long before that was a thing the rest of the world started to appreciate. Even that silly and self-appointed Sun Tzu moniker was Amare trying with all his heart to become a better leader for his team. He either didn’t know or didn’t care (likely both) how risible the nickname was.
To bring that back to the court, confidence is key for great players and when you look at Amare’s game it was the fuel that drove everything from the vicious dunks to those sweet mid-range jumpers. He was never afraid to fail and never burdened by expectations. And yet somehow those character traits didn’t become flaws off the court and didn’t translate to arrogance or corrupt his soul. In that, he is a very unique individual in the world of elite athletes (and real estate moguls).
One specific interview Amare gave really stands out for me all these years later for its honesty and insight that I failed to appreciate at the time. This was after the 2008-09 season marked by Terry Porter’s failed tenure and Amare’s devastating late-season eye injury. Stat was still recovering his eyesight when he talked about his relationships with his various coaches. I read this now and feel horrible for mocking him. His words, by the way, resonate in light of current coach Earl Watson.
You want a coach that you can really hug and hold and high five and really have fun with. That makes it fun play. You can high five and hug your team mates. You don't want to have fear of your coach. You want to be respectable with him but you also want to be a friend with him." - Amare Stoudemire
JC: Thanks for the memories Amare. Suns basketball was much better for having you.
Big thanks to Sean, Kellan, Mike, Seth and Jimmy C for coming back into the fold for a retirement roundtable on one of the brightest stars of the millenium.
Now, I ask you Suns fans, you wonderful readers, share YOUR thoughts on those questions to help us reminisce even more about the force of nature called Amare Stoudemire.