Over the course of the past eight years, Amare Stoudemire has brought Phoenix Suns fans the highest highs and the lowest lows. From his monster 2005 series against Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs to his monster brain fart leaving the bench in 2007 against those same Spurs and so many moments in between, Suns fans have run the gamut of emotions following STAT.
As we move toward out conclusion of Amare Stoudemire coverage on this site, ValleyoftheSuns will look back on the top 10 greatest moments in Stoudemire’s tenure as a Phoenix Sun. On Wednesday afternoon we will take a look at the 10 worst moments.
10. Dropping 50 on Portland
On a night when one of his teammates said he looked like Wilt Chamberlain, Amare Stoudemire could do no wrong, dominating the Portland Trail Blazers for a career-high 50-point effort. STAT knocked down 20-of-27 shots and abused the Blazers inside and out. It was the kind of superstar performer that made fans wonder if this man had a ceiling.
9. The game-tying trey off the glass
As proficient as a mid-range shooter as he is, Amare Stoudemire never would be the guy you would want taking a game-deciding three-pointer. But in Game 1 of the 2003 first-round series against the Spurs his rookie year, that’s exactly what happened — and Amare banked home his only trey of the season to dramatically force overtime in a game Phoenix eventually won.
8. The all-around 49 against Indiana
After STAT stuffed the STAT sheet with a ridiculous 49 points on 17-for-21 shooting from the field and perfect 15-for-15 marksmanship from the line to go with 11 boards, six assists, five steals and two blocks, I wrote about how that is why the Suns were smart not to pull the trigger on a Kevin Garnett trade during the 2007 offseason. This was the best all-around game I’ve ever seen Stoudemire play. He was a beast in all facets of the game and showed what he could be on the best of nights.
7. The Rookie of the Year
Nobody knew quite what to expect when the Suns selected Stoudemire ninth overall out of Cypress Creek High School in the 2002 NBA Draft. The league soon learned that he was a wrecking ball aiming to make the eight teams that passed him up regret it (and teams that selected Nikoloz Tskitishvili and Chris Wilcox in front of him immediately did). Stoudemire used his freakish athleticism to explode for 13.5 points and 8.8 boards per game, taking Rookie of the Year honors away from top overall pick Yao Ming.
6. A career’s worth of ferocious dunks
There are too many to recount, from the classic flush on the Kandi Man to the recent Terror on Tolliver, Amare Stoudemire has made a living putting hapless defenders on posters. Here’s just a sampling:
5. This season’s second-half surge
Amare Stoudemire has often been looked upon as a “me” player. So maybe his monster finish to the 2009-10 season when he averaged 25 and 10 in February, 27 and 10 in March and 26 and 9 in April was just a big money grab (which worked). But I see it as a player blocking out all the rumors and playing some of the best ball of his career to lead his underdog team to a surprisingly good finish. Amare never once pouted, never once let all the trade drama affect him on the court, and he ended tearing off one of the most memorable stretches of his career for one last final lasting memory for Suns fans.
4. The five All-Star Games
So maybe it’s taken a bit of a viral campaign at times, but you’ve got to applaud a guy who has reached the All-Star Game in five straight seasons that haven’t started with him on the operating table. For all his deficiencies, STAT has been good enough to represent the Suns at the All-Star game five times, proving his worth as one of the game’s best players during his run in Phoenix. Stoudemire has also made an All-NBA first team and three All-NBA second teams, and he played in the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship.
3. Demolishing San Antonio in 2005
The 2004-05 season in which STAT averaged a career-high 26.0 points per game was perhaps his best individual season, and he punctuated that with a playoff series for the ages against Tim Duncan and the Spurs. No, Stoudemire and the Suns did not win this war, but Amare won the battle against Duncan, torching the Spurs’ superstar for 27 points per game by hitting for at least 30 in every game and going for 40-plus twice. As he had been most of this playoff run when he averaged 30 per game, STAT was unstoppable.
2. Successful comebacks from surgeries
Many players never make it all the way back from microfracture surgery. While Stoudemire lost some of the athleticism that made him so special as a young player, he more than made up for it by improving his jumper and handles. He was a different kind of special, morphing into a guy who could still tally an efficient 25.2 in 2007-08. Then he suffered a career-threatening eye injury in 2008-09 that ended his year right after the All-Star break and forced him into an intense summer rehab that left him face down for 22 hours a day during a 10-day stretch. Yet he still fought back from this to lead the Suns all the way to the West Finals this season.
1. The Nash/Amare pick and roll
The best part of Amare Stoudemire’s tenure as a Phoenix Sun was watching him go to work with Steve Nash on a nightly basis. More than anything, the Suns have always been a pick-and-roll team when they weren’t chucking up a shot in seven seconds or less and it’s because of these guys, this decade’s version of Stockton and Malone. The Suns were unstoppable with defenders having to worry about Nash shooting or driving while checking the Stoudemire roll, opening up countless undefended shots for teammates who benefited by their mere presence. Watching Nash and Amare go to work was a beautiful thing for any basketball purist, and while they never brought the city of Phoenix a championship, they did deliver six years of highlights together and the most fun brand of basketball the league has seen in decades.
So while Stoudemire never brought the Suns to the championship round, he did deliver eight years worth of highlights that any player could be proud of.
Check back Wednesday afternoon as we chronicle the low lights of Stoudemire’s Suns career.