The Phoenix Suns announced on Monday that Amar’e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion would be the next two entrants into their Ring of Honor. In doing this, the organization also plans to retire both of the numbers worn by the players as well.
There is little doubt that these two individuals from the “seven seconds or less” era of Suns basketball deserve this award. This a storied franchise, and despite never winning a championship, both Marion and Stoudemire are top 12 players all-time for the organization. You could even make the case, as we have already, that Marion should be in the NBA’s Hall of Fame.
Stoudemire will always be loved by Suns fans for his time with the team, and this is the perfect opportunity to give S.T.A.T. his flowers.
The Suns drafted Stoudemire in 2002 with the ninth selection. Much like Devin Booker, who would come over a decade later, the team taking a player who in hindsight should have gone much higher (seriously, check out picks two through eight…). In eight seasons with the Suns, the forward put up 21.4 points and 8.9 rebounds.
What many seem to forget because of the injury-riddled knees that took him out of the top of the game far too soon, is that Stoudemire played all 82 regular season games three times during his time in Phoenix, tallied 80 games once, and 79 games as well. At 22-years-old he was an All-Star, and at his best was averaging 26 points a game.
Stoudemire was a five-time All-Star with the Suns, and is fifth all-time in win shares for the franchise at 67.9 (Marion tops that list at 93.2, another reason why he should be in the Hall of Fame). Without his ridiculous athleticism and ability to run the floor and do a bit of everything, the seven seconds or less era doesn’t happen for this group.
Perhaps the saddest part of all of this, is the fact that Stoudemire came along a decade too early. Think about how incredible he would be in today’s game. A reasonable comparison to make to a young player currently in the league is Paolo Banchero, and the sky is the limit for the Orlando Magic and current Team USA standout.
An athletic forward who could play any forward position, as well as man the paint. Stoudemire never became the 3-point shooter than Banchero already is, doing more damage closer to the basket. But both are big-bodied forwards, who can be used in a variety of ways on the offensive and defensive end on the court.
Just as sad are the injuries that curtailed his career, and had him playing in Israel by the time he was 34-years-old. This is why he is beloved to Suns fans and nobody else, although that was not always the case. After standing by the player while he had knee issues and eye surgery, a then 28-year-old Stoudemire opted out of his final year with the Suns, and joined the New York Knicks.
Perhaps if his tenure there alongside Carmelo Anthony had gone better, the Suns organization and their fans would still be bitter about the split. Instead he would play only 255 regular season games with the Knicks, breaking the 70 game barrier only once. A serious comedown from the durability he had shown in his early years with the Suns.
There was no real playoff success to speak of, and all of a sudden he was a part of the Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat and then… over in Israel and seemingly forgotten overnight. A sorry end to what should have been a superb career, and one which saw Suns fans get the absolute best out of his talent and abilities.
During his time in Phoenix, Stoudemire teamed with everybody from Smush Parker and Steve Nash, to Channing Frye and Jared Dudley. But there was never anybody quite like him. Perhaps it is because this was an era dominated by the dazzling Kobe Bryant, the emotionless Tim Duncan and even the fiery Kevin Garnett, but that fact seems to be lost on a lot of people.
The Suns were a really good team there for a while, and although they have always attracted free agents to come and play for them, this was not a massive market. Not that Suns fans cared, because Stoudemire was their not so secret weapon who had the potential to lead them to a first every championship.
That he didn’t is not all his fault, but rather some combination of bad timing, questionable calls in key moments and dodgy knees. When you talk about Phoenix Suns players this century though, they don’t come much better than Amar’e Stoudemire. Perhaps the NBA’s Hall of Fame is a stretch, but the Ring of Honor? The least the franchise can do for one of their own.