Two NBA superstars left behind the only city they have ever played for this offseason.
Both of those superstars enjoyed immense success in their cities, and both of them have been on the doorstep of a championship numerous times, including this year.
But the feeling surrounding the departures of LeBron James and Amare Stoudemire could not be more different.
I understand that LeBron is the greatest player on this planet and STAT is a guy most Suns fans wouldn’t have signed to a max contract to if it were their money, but especially considering their reputations entering the summer, their public perceptions in the aftermath of free agency is kind of shocking when juxtaposed against each other.
While Cleveland fans are burning LeBron’s jersey in the streets, Amare is sharing the love with Suns fans by taking out a back page ad in Friday’s Arizona Republic that says the following:
Dear People of Phoenix,
As most of you know, my 8 year career with the Phoenix Suns has ended, but I wanted to take this final opportunity to say “thank you” to the people of Phoenix and the wonderful Suns fans for your constant support throughout my career. Players changing teams is part of the business of professional basketball and to simply say that it was difficult to leave the Suns organization, my teammates, the coaching staff, and most of all you, the fans, is an understatement!
I want all of you to know that I leave Phoenix with great appreciation and with a heart full of warm memories and gratitude for the many years of support I’ve always felt from the people of Phoenix, from the Colangelo and Sarver families, and from my teammates and coaches.
I arrived here as a 19 year old kid. Here I became a man. My children were born here. I made friendships here that I will always treasure.
So I am saying so long, but not goodbye, to a great community that I will always consider part of my extended family.
With love and respect,
From the fans I’ve spoken with, the feeling is mutual. I expect Amare to get more cheers than boos when the Knicks visit US Airways Center this season, and I think many Suns fans hope Amare succeeds in New York, especially after he ensured there would be a trade exception that cost him money in Year 1 but helped the Suns acquire talent to help fill his void.
It was a regrettable but understandable circumstance that led to his departure. He wanted to maximize his earning potential and play in a city that appeals to his love of center stage, and the Suns didn’t feel comfortable with the risks involved with max money and max years.
Both parties made sound business decisions, and it was nothing unexpected for anybody who has followed the past two years. Amare has always wanted that money and fame as the top dog. After years of flurries of rumors, Suns fans seem to be at peace with the decision, especially considering the risk at the end of the contract.
It’s also startling to see the differences in how the owners have responded to their stars fleeing town. Both Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and Suns owner Robert Sarver released statements on their team’s site regarding said departure.
Gilbert’s infamous diatribe in comic sans includes the following passage:
You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.
You have given so much and deserve so much more.
In the meantime, I want to make one statement to you tonight: “I personally guarantee that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA Championship before the self-titled former ‘king’ wins one.”
You can take it to the bank.
If you thought we were motivated before tonight to bring the hardware to Cleveland, I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our “motivation” to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels. …
The self-declared former “King” will be taking the “curse” with him down south. And until he does “right” by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.
While Gilbert’s was a venom-spewing rant, Sarver’s was a thank you:
On behalf of the entire Suns organization I want to thank you, Amar’e, for eight special years as a Phoenix Sun. We couldn’t have achieved all our success without you. We wish you nothing but the best in the next chapter of your basketball life with the New York Knicks. We look forward to being able to honor you in some way in the future….. maybe in the Suns Ring of Honor.
I feel about the same way Sarver does. Thanks for the memories, best of luck in New York, you will always be known as a great Phoenix Sun.
Obviously James being from Cleveland, the Cleveland sports drought, his immaturity, and his hype of potentially being known as the greatest ever contributed to the mess that ensued for him.
But isn’t it interesting that as Amare Stoudemire leaves town he’s seen as the mature superstar splitting amicably while LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are suffering through the messiest possible divorce?