SLAMonline Top 50: Amare Stoudemire, no. 9

by October 18, 2008

by Holly MacKenzie

Tell Me I Can’t. I Won’t Hear You.

Over the course of both, life and basketball career, there has been a lot that Amaré Stoudemire has decided not to hear. Sometimes this is good, sometimes this is bad, but always this is Amaré. It is he who has gotten himself to where he is today, and it is he who will help or harness himself from making it to the top of his potential.

Amaré Stoudemire is a man. Of course we know this obvious fact, but it needs to be said once more. The guy is a beast, a monster and a man. He can be your dancey, dancey friend on an animated TV show because he is this man. Get his eye poked and end up making goggles a hot accessory because he is this man. He can go without playing defense and still be no. 9 on our list because he is the man.

Amaré has never been a boy. This is partly due to his ridiculous frame and never ending athleticism, but also because he was forced to become a man far before the transition naturally took place. Another basketball player; another story of making it against the path placed in front of him. Father passing away at age 12, mother in prison, six high schools and he only started playing basketball when he was 14 years old. Didn’t matter. Just like in the Nike ad, where an intense looking Stoudemire looks into the camera and growls, “Tell me I can’t. I won’t hear you.”

Pairing the rough and tumble, powerful play of Stoudemire with the smooth style of Steve Nash has benefited Stoudemire’s development more than all the coaching in the world. The combination of the two is dizzying, as Nash can find Amaré whenever he gets open, and all Amaré needs is for the ball to be brought within his vicinity. From there, he has the athleticism and intelligence to put points on the board.

Becoming the first player drafted straight out of high school to ever win the Rookie of the Year award, it was apparent early on that Amaré was something special, but it was during the 2004-05 NBA season that he put together what would serve as the defining series of his career so far. Western Conference Finals. San Antonio Spurs. Tim Duncan. Amaré ends up averaging 37 points over five games as he single-handedly threatened to destroy the Spurs. While the Suns ended up losing the final battle, Amaré’s message reverberated throughout the NBA. Tell me I can’t, I won’t hear you.

Of course, just as his career started with bumps and bruises, Amaré again had to overcome obstacles. This time, health issues. A knee injury. A terrifying microfracture surgery. An entire season off with a long and intense recovery and rehab schedule in front of him. Doubters began to chirp, haters began to sing and Amaré, he chose to remain silent in the background because he couldn’t hear any of the negativity.

Microfracture surgery did not seem to impact Amaré. Maybe it was his positivity and his focus on shutting out the negative, or maybe it was a case of divine intervention by way of the tattoo inked onto his neck, but he was back and flying just as high and as strong as before. When Amaré Stoudemire dunks the ball, you feel it. Not just the excitement, but the dunk. From your seat in the arena, from your couch at home, you can feel the rim shaking, feel the collective gasp as all 10 players and three referees are frozen, watching the man elevate and throw the ball through the hoop. You feel the ground shake just a touch as Black Jesus comes back to Earth.

And when he is unable to deliver and get the easy two points by way of the dunk? Well, he shoots a solid 80.5% from the free throw line. You can go ahead and heckle him while he’s at the line, but he won’t be affected by your jeers. Yeah, you already know why.

With career averages of 21 points and 9 rebounds per game and a ferocity that can only terrify when a defender sees him charging full out towards the basket, he has endured many challenges and changes over the course of his career in the NBA (going from having Stephon Marbury as your point guard to Steve Nash must have been an interesting switch). Amaré has always managed to triumph and come out on top. Sure, he needs to improve his defense and become more of a presence. Sure, he has things to learn about being a leader. Regardless, as the season unfolds this year, he is a bit wiser, a bit leaner and a bit hungrier, still. There are many who believe he will never be a winner because he doesn’t play on both ends of the floor. To those people, Amaré only smiles while urging them to go ahead and tell him he can’t. Just know that he is preoccupied with winning and he won’t hear you.

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