Standing Tall

Amar'e Stoudemire talks to us about his retirement and place in League history.
by August 01, 2016
18

After 20 minutes of talking about his NBA retirement, Amar’e Stoudemire sat at the podium in the Knicks media room and conversed with a few straggling reporters. His voice wasn’t loud during this moment. The gathering of Knicks employees and family members to his right were actually louder. It was Amar’e’s moment, not theirs. But there he was, asking those left behind who the best three posterizers in NBA history are.

He mentioned Vince Carter. Someone brought up Julius Erving. He agreed on both. An MSG cameraman said that Amar’e was up there.

“Me, Vince, Dr. J?” Amar’e said out loud. “Top-3 posterizers? That’s pretty good.”

Pretty good doesn’t do Stoudemire’s rim assaults justice. His dunks were career-altering. Maybe even career-ending. His one-handed tomahawks were a thing of intense beauty. When he set picks for Steve Nash, defenders could’ve just let Nash shoot his awkward floaters. But they often decided to meet Stoudemire at the rim. They never learned.

Throughout his 14-year NBA career, STAT had 1,593 dunks, a number that ranks second behind only Dwight Howard between 2002-2016. It was Amar’e’s mission to create as many posters as possible.

“I’m getting bodies every game,” he said after his presser at Madison Square Garden.

But he can’t pick a favorite. There were just too many.

The former ninth-overall pick was able to choose a specific moment in his career that pushed him closer to retirement than people may realize. In October 2005, right before the season started, Phoenix Suns doctors found out the All-Star had a severely damaged left knee. They operated after a few weeks of trying to treat the knee. On the Knicks podium in 2016, STAT said the injury, surgery and recovery was a pivotal moment in his career.

“I felt like giving it up,” he said.

Eleven years after the injury, his voice still carried the weight of it. “I felt like saying I’m done with the game of basketball.”

His passion pushed him through, though, and he said that was the moment he truly realized how much he loved the game.

After that he outplayed Tim Duncan in the 2007 playoffs. Even though the Spurs won the series and eventually the title, Stoudemire announced his arrival as more than a dunker in that playoff series.

“Outplaying Tim Duncan in the playoffs is not an easy task,” Stoudemire said. “This guy is the greatest power forward to ever play the game and at that moment I was willing to take the title. I wanted to become the best. Those moments and those games were fierce battles. Extreme focus. Supreme determination. It was truly a remarkable experience.”

He put the League on notice. He had began to develop a deadly midrange jumper. His help side defense was getting better by the game. He stepped up as a leader and a reliable clutch performer, and he was still putting people in the rim.

Before he left Phoenix, STAT helped guide the Suns to the Western Conference Finals in 2010. Over 16 games that postseason, he averaged 22 points a night. The game he flashed in 2007 was now fully developed and the Knicks were watching.

In his first Knicks press conference, he famously declared “the Knicks are back!” It didn’t really work out on the court the way he and the Knicks wanted it to, but when it comes to the Blue and Orange, it’s absolutely all love for Amar’e.

“When I first signed with New York, that experience goes unmatched,” Stoudemire said. “The red carpet was laid out, the doors were open. I didn’t pay for any meals. It was a dream come true.

“We started playing well,” he continued. “Everyone in Madison Square Garden really standing up and yelling MVP chants. I was scoring 30 points every night, 40 points here. That run was probably the most exciting time of my career.”

A career that saw him make six All-Star teams and five All-NBA teams. It saw him become a $100 million man. It saw him establish himself as an on-court force and an off-court favorite.

And now Amar’e Stoudemire is done with the NBA. He’s taking the poster dunks and catch-and-shoot middies over to Israel, in what he calls a “spiritual journey.” He said he’s healthy and ready to bring a EuroCup title to Hapoel Jerusalem, his new squad. He and his wife, Alexis, are going over to Jerusalem next week to find a home and schools for their kids.

But before Amar’e wrapped up his final NBA press conference, he sat on the podium in front of a few remaining reporters and asked out loud who the best posterizers in NBA history are. His name was thrown in there. He was okay with that.