When the news came down that Amar'e Stoudemire would retire a Knick, many New York fans were touched, albeit a bit confused. After all, nearly all of STAT's best years came with the Phoenix Suns, the organization that drafted him as a raw high school prospect in 2002. Five of Amar'e's six All-Star selections came in Phoenix. When the majority of NBA fans look back on his career, they'll remember the fearsome pick-and-roll partnership he had with Steve Nash, not his pretty-good-for-a-while hookup with Raymond Felton.
So what was the deal? Why didn't Amar'e retire as a member of the Suns? As it turns out, he tried to return to Phoenix, but was cruelly rebuffed, according to this interview with The Arizona Republic:
"The last two years, we made phone calls to Phoenix but I wasn't getting any positive response," Stoudemire told the paper. "That would've been the perfect way to go out. I didn't want to beg Phoenix. My heart was in two places — Phoenix and New York. I just went where I was wanted.
"I wasn't just going to keep knocking on someone's door that wasn't going to answer," and, "I put forth the effort to finish my career in Phoenix but it wasn't well-received."
Believe it or not -- and you might as well believe it, since sports fans are horrible -- Amar'e caught some flak for "choosing" the Knicks over Phoenix. Even Suns broadcaster Eddie Johnson chimed in:
Knicks owner James Dolan has his faults (so, so many faults) but he is usually more than happy to take care of his players (the ones he likes, at least) in times like these. Suns owner Robert Sarver, on the other hand, is a cheap bastard who probably cost Amar'e, Nash and Shawn Marion a real shot at the title by refusing to spend on a decent bench. Amar'e simply went where he was wanted.
In a way, this whole retirement episode is a microcosm of Stoudemire's entire Knicks career. Yes, he probably would have stayed in Phoenix if they would have come close to New York's offer, but they didn't. To outsiders, the idea of Amar'e in a Knicks uniform never quite fit. But he was here, dammit, and he tried his best. And for a brief moment, he helped the franchise rise from oblivion. Like his one-day retirement contract, Amar'e Stoudemire's time with the Knicks represents a footnote in a great career, more sentiment than substance. So what? We're the New York Knicks, and he is one of us. #OAKAAK
As commenter BayAreaYorker pointed out, Amar'e's statement is pretty vague -- perhaps he wanted to play for the Suns and turned to the Knicks to retire when Phoenix refused, without ever giving the organization a chance to offer the one-day retirement contract. Either way, the point still stands: Knicks are great, screw all other teams.