Amar’e Stoudemire’s long-awaited Suns night comes with Ring of Honor nod

Mar 2, 2024, 11:53 PM

PHOENIX — There is a lot different about the Phoenix Suns franchise that Amar’e Stoudemire was a part of during the first eight seasons of his NBA career compared to when he was inducted into the Ring of Honor on Saturday.

Both Stoudemire and Shawn Marion had their jersey numbers put up in the rafters this season. They are fittingly right next to each other. It comes a year and change after Mat Ishbia took over as owner in place of Robert Sarver, and Ishbia made sure to quickly fix a previous error by honoring the pair.

Stoudemire’s reaction to Ishbia calling him with the big news shows how much he still wanted that honor he thought might never come.

“I immediately was like, ‘This is the call!'” he recalled with a laugh. “It was a moment of cherishing that time and that phone call. And I immediately called my children and said, ‘Hey guess what, your last name is gonna be immortalized.'”

A five-time All-Star and four-time All-NBA member in Phoenix, Stoudemire’s resume is loaded. On the franchise leaderboards, he’s seventh in points, third in rebounds and fifth in blocks. And when it comes to the height of his powers, S.T.A.T.’s form rivals anyone in a franchise history that includes league MVP’s like Charles Barkley and Steve Nash.

“He’s one of the best dunkers in NBA history. Just electric attacking the rim,” Suns head coach Frank Vogel said of Stoudemire. “The perfect complement to Steve (Nash’s) IQ. The Seven Seconds or Less era would not have been what it was without Amar’e Stoudemire. Definitely a respected member of the NBA community and one of the best Suns of all time.”

Stoudemire is an underrated player in general who never gets his due. In his third season at the age of 22, he was Second Team All-NBA after establishing himself as one of the league’s premier power forwards, up there with Hall of Famers Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki.

In a five-game Western Conference Finals loss against Duncan’s Spurs in the playoffs that year, Stoudemire outplayed him while averaging 37 points per game. This was after 28.8 points and 12.5 rebounds a night across a six-game series win the round prior over Nowitzki’s Mavericks. In the regular season, memorable duels with Garnett occurred, and he got the better of the Big Ticket in some of those. If not for injury, he would have been regarded in history right alongside that trio.

The next season, he injured his knee and underwent microfracture surgery, a procedure that was significantly altering if not ending a lot of careers at the time. Stoudemire contemplated retirement after going through “excruciating recovery,” remembering feeling like himself at times only to be able to “barely move” the next day.

“It took a lot of persistence, a lot of determination and self-improvement in order to persevere through that moment,” Stoudemire said.

He was never the same player. While still incredibly explosive and powerful, his mind-blowing agility at his size took a big hit. The quick-twitch stuff was altered too and while he still had leaping ability to put guys on posters, it wasn’t quite the same.

And yet, Stoudemire got better. During his speech, he related it to the phoenix bird itself, rising from the ashes. He became an unstoppable post player, armed with a knockdown mid-range jumper and a beautiful blend of footwork within his post moves to score at will.

“He was a roller, dunker earlier in his career and really worked on his game,” Vogel said. “And became a really good jump shooter and someone you had to double-team in the post. The power that he played with just demanded a double-team. He didn’t have that when he first got into the league (and) he worked on it. His work ethic is something that should be recognized.”

Injuries reared their head again in the back-half of Stoudemire’s career following his departure from Phoenix but he maximized what he could get out of himself.

Speaking of that, Stoudemire thinks if Ishbia was the owner back in the late 2000s he would have remained in the Valley instead of going to the New York Knicks. He didn’t want to cry over spilled milk, though.

Ultimately, it was a night about cementing his legacy. And one of the best ways he did it while waiting for this night to come was by mentoring the next generation.

“I developed a relationship with Amar’e as soon as I got here even though he was living on the East coast,” Suns guard Devin Booker said. “And he was someone that would keep in contact with me, even on random games that you think nobody’s watching and when we were getting our head beat in every night he’d still text me like, ‘Keep going youngin.’ And that means a lot. I’ve always showed respect to the ones that came before me and they’ve always returned that.

“(He’s) somebody that’s much deserving for it. He’s a fan favorite in the Valley for obvious reasons and team hasn’t seen anything like him since.”

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