Amar’e Stoudemire signed a one-day contract with the Knicks on Tuesday, choosing to end his career with the team spent parts of five seasons with.
While most of Stoudemire’s stint in New York was mired with injuries, he helped lead an irrelevant, once storied team back to prominence. He even said so in his statement announcing the end of his 14-year career.
“I want to thank Mr. Dolan, Phil [Jackson] and Steve [Mills, for signing me so that I can officially retire as a New York Knick,” Stoudemire said.
“I came to New York in 2010 to help revitalize this franchise and we did just that. Carmelo [Anthony], Phil and Steve have continued this quest, and with this year’s acquisitions, the team looks playoff-bound once again. Although my career has taken me to other places around the country, my heart has always remained in the Big Apple. Once a Knick, Always a Knick.”
The 33-year-old spent most of his career with the Phoenix Suns as one of the NBA’s premier scoring forwards. After being selected in the first round (ninth overall) by Phoenix out of Cypress Creek High School in Orlando, Florida, Stoudemire made six All-Star teams and led the Suns to the playoffs six times – reaching the conference finals three times. However, he decided to opt-out of his deal with Phoenix after the 2009-10 season.
With a team that had not made the playoffs since 2004 and was consistently trotting out below average teams, the Knicks were in desperate need of a star player to turn things around. Stoudemire, who had an obvious interest in the big market of NYC, signed a five-year, $99.7 million deal to join the Knicks. At his introductory press conference, he expressed excitement with joining the team and that the years of the despair were done.
“The Knick are back!” Stoudemire said.
He almost single-handedly kept the Knicks afloat for the first half of the 2010-11 season. He set a franchise record with his ninth straight 30-point game in a loss to the Celtics on December 15, 2010. Two days later, he set another franchise record, recording his ninth straight game shooting 50 percent or better from the field.
The only problem was, Stoudemire’s 30 point games did not mean much if the team wasn't winning consistently. However, he was focused on winning with the Knicks’ roster as it was, which included Danilo Gallinari, Landry Fields, Raymond Felton, and Wilson Chandler.
He also was fine with the Knicks not trading for Carmelo Anthony, if it meant breaking up the core.
"Right now, in New York we have a solid team," Stoudemire told the New York Daily News in January 2011. "We don't really need much. We're playing well. We feel like the team we have can be very successful if we keep improving individually and as a team on the defensive end."
However, in late February, the Knicks struck a three-team deal to acquire Anthony from the Denver Nuggets. It required to blow up the roster but it landed New York the franchise superstar they wanted to pair with Stoudemire.
Here's a breakdown of the trade:
Knicks: F Carmelo Anthony, G Chauncey Billups, G Anthony Carter, F Renaldo Balkman and F Shelden Williams
Denver: F Wilson Chandler, F Danilo Gallinari, G Raymond Felton, C Timofey Mozgov, a 2014 first-round draft pick and a 2012 and a 2013 second-round pick and cash.
Minnesota: C Eddy Curry, F Anthony Randolph, and F Corey Brewer.
Stoudemire changed his tune.
"Every team needs a 1, 1A punch," he said. "And so with the ways that we both can score .... we're very versatile, so it's hard to guard us."
The Knicks finished the 2010-11 season 42-40, good for sixth in the Eastern Conference. However, the injury bug hit Stoudemire, limiting him in the playoffs as the Knicks were swept by the Celtics in the opening round.
Injuries and tragedies followed Stoudemire into the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. He missed four games early in the season mourning the death of his older brother Hazell, who died in a car wreck. He couldn’t get in a groove without a cemented point guard feeding him the ball. To make matters worse, a bulging disc in Stoudemire’s back cost him most of the second half as he played in 47 total games.
“He’s got to keep his head up,” then head coach Mike Woodson said. “If he has to have surgery, he’s gotta rehab and come back. He’s still a young player.”
In a near repeat of the previous season, the Knicks lost to the Heat in the opening round four games to one. However, they won their first playoff game in 12 years. That was one positive to take into the following season.
The following season, Stoudemire played in just 29 games as knee injuries and a subsequent knee surgery ended his season. The Knicks still won 54 games in the regular season (No.2 seed in the east), and defeated the Celtics in the first round, their first playoff series win since 2000.
Stoudemire’s stint with the Knicks was winding down -- and he was traded to the Mavericks during the 2014-15 campaign. After his MVP-caliber initial season, he missed 141 out of a possible 246 games the following three years before being dealt halfway through what would have been his final contracted year in New York.
However, there were a few things that Stoudemire, known for bathing in red wine and being proud of his Jewish heritage, left behind in New York.
An unselfishness when it comes to what’s best for the team; not causing a fuss when the team acquired Anthony. The need to remain healthy; he should not have tried playing through so many injuries. The need for a point guard; Raymond Felton and Chauncey Billups were not playmakers.
And finally, that New York can be a winning team, given the right core of players.
Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah both enter with a history of injury problems. Stoudemire's time in NYC showed that it's key to monitor these situations. Anthony is still looking for his first championship and wants to deliver it for the Knicks.
It all started with "Stat."