Respect Amar’e Stoudemire
In a season of never-ending storylines, is it any surprise that something like this would happen? Following the Knicks’ 10-point Game 2 loss at the hands of the Miami Heat, word broke that Amar’e Stoudemire suffered a laceration on his left hand after punching the glass casing around a fire extinguisher in the locker room and may be unavailable to play for the rest of the series. Not only was I impressed that he shattered the glass with his hand when you normally need an axe to do so, but I felt comfort in the fact that I wasn’t the only person whose post-game emotional outburst led to punching something (mine being the pillows on my bed; I suffered no lacerations).
Much to my chagrin, this entire fiasco has spawned a bunch of jokes (“Amar’e didn’t hit the glass that hard all game”), bad memes, photoshops, a Twitter parody account, and Amar’e-bashing opinions from Knicks fans. Whether it be a sense of relief that the Knicks will finally be able to win without Amar’e or calling his character into question, I find this lack of loyalty amongst Knicks fans a little disrespectful. On the first day of free agency in the summer of 2010, only one man stood forward into the limelight and promised to lead the New York Knicks back to basketball prestige and glory. It wasn’t LeBron James, it wasn’t Joe Johnson, it wasn’t Chris Bosh, it was Amar’e Stoudemire. From that point on, I vowed to have that man’s back, whether healthy or with a bulging disk in it.
I don’t know if you remember the failures of Don Chaney, Lenny Wilkens, Larry Brown, and Isiah Thomas. I don’t know if you remember a time when Tim Thomas was our team’s best player. I don’t know if you remember Antonio McDyess, Zach Randolph, and Eddy Curry redefining the term “underachiever”. I don’t know if you remember the countless years of squandered picks and draft busts. But I do, and I also remember last year, when Amar’e Stoudemire had the New York Knicks in playoff contention and in the public eye on a national scale for the first time in over a decade. I remember Stat’s almost game-winner against the heavily-favored Celtics, I remember the 9 straight games of 30+ points, I remember the MVP talks, and I remember the core of the most promising Knicks team since Allan Houston was playing being ripped away and shipped off to Denver for Carmelo Anthony. While it took awhile to come to terms with that (I miss you Gallo and Wilson), I am not yet ready to believe that Amar’e Stoudemire is a detriment to this team, whether it’s stubbornness, stupidity, or sheer loyalty.
So call me naive, but when Person X from Long Island who averaged 3.6 PPG in their intramural basketball career believes that the Knicks are better without Amar’e, I’m not so inclined to agree with them. While you can make a strong argument with statistical evidence, you can also make the same argument that the Knicks are better without Amar’e AND Carmelo Anthony. I know ESPN seems to have forgotten, but I’m sure you remember Linsanity. Also, when Amar’e was out and Jeremy Lin was finally paired together with Melo, the Knicks regressed once again. Stats are meaningless in such a small sample size with all of the variables involved in this past regular season, which was a season of trials and tribulations squeezed into a compressed 66-game schedule.
At the end of the day, the Knicks are a hodgepodge of players thrown together without a semblance of basketball chemistry taken into account. They’re currently being led by an interim head coach whose been forced to experiment with an ever-changing set of lineups because of the constant cycle of injuries and drama. The only constants we’ve seen all year have been strong defensive showings from Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert and the heroic scoring of just one player, be it Carmelo Anthony or Jeremy Lin. It’s been a wild ride, and while the fans finally have something to be satisfied about, the Knicks are still a 7-seed on the brink of another first round exit and still nowhere close to that coveted championship trophy.
The next time you choose to slander Amar’e Stoudemire, remember who stepped up and took this franchise out of the decade-long, torturous period of irrelevance. You may look upon Stat’s 5-year, $100 million contract as a poor, untradeable asset, but I look at it as the symbol of his leap of faith. In 2010, only one player looked at the most pathetic and sorry franchise in all of basketball and succeeded in bringing them any success, and that’s Amar’e Stoudemire. We may not be close to a championship, but we’re closer than we have ever been in recent memory, and it would be nice to see some respect for the man who made this possible in the first place: STOUDEMIRE.