Amar’e Stoudemire announced his retirement yesterday.
That is a sentence that should probably be a bigger deal. Ten years ago, most people would have thought that sentence would have the words ‘Hall of Fame” in it.
Twenty years from now, that sentence will probably mean even less than it does now. Like NBA oddities Fat Lever, Tom Chambers, Antoine Walker, etc., Stoudemire will most likely slip through the cracks of NBA history, where he will float in an uneven purgatory of the Hall of Very Good. Not the Hall of Fame. But for a period of time from 2004 to 2011, Stoudemire really was a Hall of Fame talent.
In 20 years, when your child stumbles across the name (who was that big skinny Rembrandt that Steve Nash used to pass to?), tell him/her this:
Amar’e Stoudemire was a shining example of the high school to pro star, on the short list of kids who came in and found NBA success.
He was the leading scorer on many Phoenix Suns teams that — let’s face it — should have won a championship. He perched beside, behind, or in front of Steve Nash, and finished off thunderous dunks, little touch jumpers, and improbable bank shots.
He was a six-time all-star and he was once an All-NBA first teamer.
His overt greatness was combatted only by — you guessed it! — injuries. First it was his knees. Then he got poked so hard in the eye that he almost went blind. Then it was the knees again.
Then we blinked and he was teetering along in basketball cities who were convinced that greatness was still somewhere inside him.
In 2010, he took a big paycheck and two wobbly knees to The Garden, where he ever-so briefly brought the game of basketball back to New York. He had the Knicks in the playoff hunt, despite being surrounded by — ready? — Wilson Chandler, Ray Felton, Landry Fields, and young Danilo Galinari.
Then the Knicks mortgaged their future for Carmelo Anthony, at which point the Knicks were 28-26 (It felt more like 54-10). The two never meshed, and Anthony incidentally put shackles on Stoudemire’s game.
Every year after that, his numbers dipped dramatically. He toiled in Dallas, then in Miami, then he announced he was done at the age of 33.
He retired a personified ice bag on the Miami bench, but Stoudemire will be remembered as a Sun.
A supernova, rather. He arrived on the scene so quickly and so spectacularly. We admired him while he was here, but he was here for so short a time that all we have left is a disproportionate memory of greatness.
I watched Amar’e Stoudemire — a large jumble of limbs who used to bathe in red wine, who identified himself as a Jew — during his absolute peak.
I watched Amar’e Stoudemire.
So believe me, kid, he was definitely great.