Here at GameDaySportsBlog.com we have articles where we discuss players who we believe are on the fence of induction into their respective sport’s Hall of Fame. Today we look at former center Amar’e Stoudemire as we argue both the case for and against his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is this edition of Hall or No Hall.
The Case For Amar’e Stoudemire
Amare Stoudemire transcended the game of basketball and changed the way that teams play the game. He along with fellow future Hall of Famer Steve Nash brought the up-tempo offense to the forefront of the NBA in the mid-2000’s. They were a version of John Stockton and Karl Malone that played at a much faster pace, with Stoudemire playing the role of The Mailman but much more athletic. And it was Amare’s strength, jump shot, all-around offensive game, and the fact that he was the most athletic big man the game has ever seen that allowed him to flourish in this offense and put up the stats that he did.
And it’s an impressive stat line: Nearly 16,000 points, more than 6,000 rebounds, and 1,000 blocks in just 846 NBA games. Stoudemire was simply better than everybody else down low. His athleticism made him near-impossible to guard and on the defensive end his leaping ability and strength made him a force on the low block leading to rebounds and blocks that somebody his size shouldn’t have been able to do.
And it’s that athletic nature and his up-tempo style of play that made him an All-NBA first team selection in 2007, one of six seasons that he was named a league All-Star. And even as a rookie, straight out of high school, Amare’s greatness showed, being named the NBA Rookie of the Year and he was already one of the game’s best big men. The next year he won an Olympic medal at the games in Athens, and the following years became a mainstay on All-NBA teams.
As for those claiming that Stoudemire didn’t play long enough, and only had eight true years of good play, they would be right, kind of. As true as it was that Stoudemire’s peak was only eight years, his dominance over those eight seasons is better than nearly any big man in history’s best eight-year stretch.
From his second season in the league through his first season in New York, Stoudemire was one of the most dominant forces the game has ever seen. 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, Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, widely considered the best power forward in history, averaged 22.5 points and shot 50.7 percent during the best eight-year offensive stretch of his career.
And it’s not just comparing those eight years, but his entire career average to others that make him a near lock for Springfield when he is eligible.
Stoudemire’s career numbers compare favorably to those of another surefire Hall of Fame player, Kevin Garnett. In his 14-year career, Stoudemire averaged 18.9 points on 53.7 percent shooting, 7.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.8 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. Meanwhile 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, averaging much worse numbers in his 20 year career, yet is still all but a lock for induction.
But perhaps the voters for the Hall of Fame won’t be looking at Stoudemire’s stats. Maybe they won’t see that his career numbers not only rival, but exceed those of surefire Hall of Famers. But what the voters can’t overlook is Amare’s impact on the game.
The athletic center changed the game of basketball by bringing speed, quickness, and overall athleticism to front court. His dominance in the league with fast break points and a unique skill set made these qualities very valuable for teams, and forced the NBA into a golden age of athleticism on the court. As a matter of fact, it is feasible to credit Amar’e Stoudemire for being the player who started the movement towards position-less basketball, with his outside jump shot and speed being something that every basketball GM wanted from a big-man after he let them know it was possible.
So with his impact on the game, and his statistics that outdo those of near-locks for induction, it is quite obvious what should happen next. Amar’e will see his jersey retired in Phoenix, continue to watch the game evolve down the path that he led, and find himself looking at a plaque of himself in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. It’s just a matter of time.
The Case Against Amar’e Stoudemire
My good friend Mr. Lawrence Kent seems to always say this about players that are borderline HOF type guys, “(name of player) belongs in the hall of very good, but not the Hall of Fame.” And that saying is no more true about anybody than it is about Amare Stoudemire; a player whose offense was fantastic, but whose poor defense, surprisingly non-valuable play, and lack of a long-healthy career make this borderline player end up on the wrong side of the discussion.
There is no doubt that Amar’e can score points with the best of them. His nearly 16,000 career points is impressive. But when you realize that his 15,994 points scored places him outside the top one hundred and ten players all-time including mediocre players like Latrell Spreewell (16,712) and former teammate Shawn Marion (17,700) you start to realize maybe his offense wasn’t what some make it out to be. And for those arguing it is because he didn’t play long, and it’s his average that should count, know that Stoudemire’s career 18.9 points per game ranks just 86th all-time, behind names like Michael Redd and Levern Tart. In other words, no matter how you slice it, the former Phoenix center’s offensive prowess has been exaggerated quite a bit. Unless you consider his not-quite-Michael-Redd-numbers to be good enough for the Hall of Fame.
Considering that offense is what the center is known for, when we take a look at his defense you will see the same thing Hall of Fame voters will see, a candidate who just doesn’t stack up. According to ESPN’s real plus-minus (RPM) Stoudemire ranked as an above average defender just three times in his fourteen seasons, despite the stat’s glaring weakness for making big-men look better statistically. As a matter of fact, ESPN’s RPM ranked Amar’e in the top 25 defenders in the league just one season during his career.
As for Stoudemire’s previously mentioned overrated value he added to his championship caliber Suns teams, that caught even this writer by surprise. Nonetheless, the findings were quite telling. Despite the box score telling casual fans that Stoudemire was the reason for the long-time middling franchise’s success, the 2005-06 season lends a different perspective.
During that season Stoudemire was limited to just three games after suffering a microfracture in his knee. Still the Suns were able to win 54 games and reach the Western Conference Finals without their supposed star big-man. Somebody truly as valuable as delusional people claim Amar’e to have been would have had a much harsher impact on his team’s season than them nearly winning the conference without him.
So the question is, “could the Suns have succeeded like that if Steve Nash or even Shawn Marrion were out for the season instead of Stoudemire?” The answer is an obvious “no”, and it’s an obvious “no” by the sportswriters and media of the basketball world who during Stoudemire’s prime twice voted his point guard Steve Nash the league MVP while the big-man never finished better than sixth.
And now with this show of near non-value to his team, and the proof that his numbers are far from elite and even far from great, what makes Amar’e Stoudemire a Hall of Famer? He didn’t play long enough, and his numbers show that even when he was playing he wasn’t dominant. And although his Suns were a winning team when he was lacing them up in Phoenix, it was obvious that it wasn’t him making them great, and it won’t be him ending up in the Hall of Fame.