Six-time NBA All-Star and 14-year veteran Amar’e Stoudemire announced his retirement on Tuesday, signing a one-day contract with the New York Knicks before calling it a career.
The 33-year-old spent his first eight season with the Phoenix Suns, before taking his talents to the Big Apple during the 2010 offseason and playing four and a half seasons with the Knicks. Stoudemire was then sent to Dallas in the 2014-15 season, before he played one final season with the Miami Heat.
The next stop in Stoudemire’s NBA career may be Springfield, as the Florida native has a fairly strong case for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Over an eight-year period, from his second season in the league through his first season in New York, Stoudemire was one of the most dominant forces in the game. During that stretch, Amar’e averaged 23.2 points per game, 8.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.5 blocks while shooting 54.3 percent from the field. By comparison, certain Hall of Famer Tim Duncan averaged 22.5 points and shot 50.7 percent during the best eight-year offensive stretch of his career.
Stoudemire’s career numbers also compare favorably to those of another surefire Hall of Fame player, Kevin Garnett. In his 14-year career, “STAT” averaged 18.9 points on 53.7 percent shooting, 7.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. Garnett has averaged 17.8 points, 10 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.4 blocks while shooting 49.7 percent from the field through his first 20 seasons.
Critics will look to Stoudemire’s lack of career longevity and the seasons cut short due to injury as the most prominent arguments against his Hall of Fame candidacy.
Despite the injuries, though, he was considered not only a dominant player, but, in a way, a revolutionary one as well. Stoudemire and Steve Nash led the Phoenix Suns’ “Seven Seconds or Less” offense, which made it to the 2005 Western Conference Finals, and they then reached that mark again the next season, although Stoudemire didn’t appear in that playoff run.
A 22-year-old Stoudemire turned in one of the greatest playoff series performances of all-time in those Western Finals against Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs. In five games, Amar’e averaged 37 points a game on 55 percent shooting and added 9.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. He did not score fewer than 31 points in any game, yet the Spurs still won the series 4-1.
The “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns laid the groundwork for the fast-paced, small-ball basketball that spawned the current NBA powerhouse Golden State Warriors. Several current NBA teams have attempted to duplicate the Suns’ blueprint, and nearly every squad is looking for big men that can run the floor and shoot efficiently from the perimeter.
Stoudemire’s contribution to that movement should not be forgotten, and his role in changing the NBA’s perception of big men may be enough to land him in the hallowed Hall in Springfield.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has no aversion to reworking his rotation throughout a playoff series — he said Friday, “there is no rotation in the playoffs” — and it is unlikely he’ll hold to the same starting lineup unless that group looks unstoppable.
For now, though, he’s sticking with Hassan Whiteside as his starting center. For most of the last two and a half months Spoelstra has been starting Amar’e Stoudemire and playing him 12-20 minutes with Whiteside getting closer to 30 minutes coming off the bench.
After 14 seasons, more than 26,000 minutes and multiple knee surgeries, there was good reason to wonder if Amar’e Stoudemire had anything left as the Heat kept him on the bench the first two months of this season.