Top 50: Amar’e Stoudemire, no. 16
The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.
by Gregory Dole
I really shouldn’t be commenting on Amar’e Stoudemire because I am a fan. I met him in 2003 and he still comes up to say hello to me whenever we cross paths. In my opinion, he is one of the most decent guys in the NBA. As a result, it is difficult for me to be objective. I apologize in advance if I come off as a cheerleader, the lowest form of the sports writer.
The guy is a beast. He is a dunking machine. When he first came into the League, it was like he was built on a pogo stick. Even with a mounting number of surgeries, Stoudemire can still throw it down like few others.
He has a very simple game tailored for the NBA. He is the prototype for the pick-and-roll. If the defender gives him the outside shot from the free-throw line extended, he will nail it. If the defender lets him get the angle and Stoudemire slips to the rim, the help defense better rotate because no one finishes with the same speed and ferocity.
More than anything, Stoudemire is the type of person who will not be denied. Thousands of prospects have fizzled out because the path that lay in front of them was too difficult. Too hard. Stoudemire did not become a member of the “I coulda been somebody” club. Even though he went through a tragic childhood, filled with povery, sadness and loss, the guy overcame the obstacles. He attended SIX high schools. What the hell is that?
I can remember speaking with David Griffin, long before he became the Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations. about Stoudemire. He told me that when the Suns’ brass met with the young man before the 2002 draft, they knew they had their player. The middling Suns were in need of a shot in the arm. They needed a take-charge sort of guy. When interviewing Stoudemire, the Suns staff asked him to describe himself, to which Stoudemire replied, “I am a leader, people follow me.”
Now Stoudemire has never struck me as a leader in the rah-rah, traditional sense. But he seems to have that fire-in-the-belly that cannot be taught. No matter how hard you try, either you are born with “it” or you don’t have “it”. Stoudemire believes he is a leader and that is all there is to it. While Steve Nash comes across as the true leader of the Suns, Stoudemire is the sort of guy who goes out and gets it done. People fall in line behind him because of his sheer force of will.
Critics have always pointed out that Stoudemire’s game is not dynamic. He isn’t a Lamar Odom-type of power forward who a coach could use to run the triple post. His offense is limited to shooting, running the fastbreak and executing the pick-and-roll. Once he gets the ball, chances are it isn’t coming back out again. There is no hesitation on Stoudemire’s part, unlike the talented Odom who can be indecisive and frustrating. Most basketball coaches refer to a Stoudemire type of player as a “black hole,” like the thing in space that asteroids disappear into never to return.
While Stoudemire might never have seen a shot he does not like, at the same time he is the sort of player who will at least try to take the ball to the rim every time he gets it. He is most certainly not the type of player who will get the ball in the post, think about doing something and then pass the ball out for a guard to force a hurried shot attempt as the shot clock winds down.
Most recently, Dallas Mavericks’ statistician and Indiana University professor Wayne Winston claimed that Stoudemire is “totally overrated” and a “total stats stuffer”. Apparently Winston has the stats to back this up. Perhaps there is some merit to Winston’s analysis.
Amar’e is no dummie. Of course he goes for the stats. You get paid max money if you put up gaudy stats. The pride of Lake Wales, Florida did not get to where he is in life by being a patsy. Get your numbers and you’ll get paid big money. That is the way the business game of sports is played, and quite rightly, Stoudemire has his mind on the money.
The stats speak for themselves. 21.5 points and 9 rebounds per game. Throw in 1.5 blocks per as well. Add 54 percent from the floor and 75.5 percent from the free throw line. And Amar’e will get that for you every night. While the stats guru Winston might not be impressed, even he would have to agree that there is something to be said about the fact that if you were to plot Stoudemire’s stats, there would be very few outliers. Enough stats talk. What I am trying to say is that you can pencil in Amar’e for 21 and 9 because those numbers come with next to no standard deviation.
If nothing else, Stoudemire accomplishes the central objective in basketball: he puts the ball in the net, the biscuit in the basket as effectively as anyone who has ever played the game.
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’09-10 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Brett Ballantini, Russ Bengtson, Toney Blare, Shannon Booher, Myles Brown, Franklyn Calle, Gregory Dole, Emry DowningHall, Jonathan Evans, Adam Fleischer, Jeff Fox, Sherman Johnson, Aaron Kaplowitz, John Krolik, Holly MacKenzie, Ryne Nelson, Chris O’Leary, Ben Osborne, Alan Paul, Susan Price, Sam Rubenstein, Khalid Salaam, Kye Stephenson, Adam Sweeney, Vincent Thomas, Tzvi Twersky, Justin Walsh, Joey Whelan, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.