NBA

A’mare Stoudemire Is Still Hesitant of His First Leadership Role in the NBA: ‘I Like to Feel Young’

Amar’e Stoudemire’s incredible basketball career has led him to truly unique places. Most fans remember his NBA talent. But he also played abroad for a while and has drawn attention for his off-the-court moves as well. But Stoudemire is back in the NBA in a role few ever saw him pursuing: assistant coach.

He’s reunited with Steve Nash and other Phoenix Suns alumni to help the new-look Brooklyn Nets compete for a championship. Stoudemire will be hoping he has better luck as a coach than he did as a player.

Amar’e Stoudemire was a walking NBA highlight reel at his peak

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At his peak, few players were as electrifying as Stoudemire, a 6-foot-10 whirling dervish who could throw down astounding dunks. After being drafted ninth overall in the 2002 NBA draft, Stoudemire was an immediate hit. He became the first player drafted out of high school to become Rookie of the Year after averaging 18 points and seven rebounds for the Suns

A player of his talent was always destined for stardom. But his career really took off once Nash signed on and led one of the most entertaining, influential teams in NBA history. Nash won the MVP trophies, but Stoudemire thrived in the “Seven Seconds or Less” offense. His best season was his first with Nash setting him up. Stoudemire averaged 26 points and nine rebounds a game as the Suns won 62 games. But the team lost to the Spurs in the 2005 Western Conference Finals.

Coming up short in the playoffs became frustratingly familiar in Phoenix due to other teams’ greatness and bad injury luck, especially for Stoudemire. His knee injuries were so severe that by the time he signed for the Knicks in 2010, they couldn’t get insurance for his faulty body parts.

He was great for a year, but he quickly became more known for his contract than his game after that. The Knicks eventually bought him out of the contract. He spent short spells with the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat before retiring in 2016. 

He’s accomplished plenty of things unrelated to the NBA

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Stoudemire has done plenty of things to make himself a notable figure aside from his efforts on an NBA floor. 

He went abroad to play for three more years in Israel and China, but the impact of his time in the former country greatly outweighs that of his stint with the Fujian Sturgeons. It wasn’t just about extending his playing career; it was the culmination of Stoudemire’s understanding and relationship with Judaism, reports Forward.

Even though he was raised Baptist, Stoudemire has Hebrew Israelite heritage through his mother’s side of the family, and his wife has family connections to the African Hebrew Israelites of Dimona, commonly known as the Black Hebrews. He began to explore this side of his familial history during his time with the Knicks. He completed his conversion to Orthodox Judaism in August and his Hebrew name is Jehoshaphat.

His time on the court in Israel was also fruitful. He spent two years playing for Hapoel Jerusalem, a team he also co-owns, and helped them win the Israeli Basketball Premier League in 2017. After going into retirement for a year, he returned to the court to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he won another title and was named the Israeli Basketball Premier League Finals MVP in July.

Maccabi offered him a one-year deal to come back, but Stoudemire chose to pursue a new challenge. 

Amar’e Stoudemire is forging yet another new path on the sidelines

Former NBA player Amar'e Stoudemire looks on during a game
Former NBA player Amar’e Stoudemire during a game | Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The makeup of the Nets’ new coaching staff raised a lot of eyebrows among NBA fans – and also for at least one of the people making up that staff. 

“I never really thought much about coaching, to be honest with you,” Stoudemire said in a New York Times profile. But after hearing that Steve Nash was Brooklyn’s new head coach, he reached out to affirm his interest in a role on the sidelines. Nash, being a quintessential pass-first point guard, set his big man up once again. 

His official job title is “player development assistant” due to his small experience working with Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis during Nike camps during his NBA career and his mentoring role with 2020 lottery pick Deni Avdija when they played together for Maccabi Tel Aviv.  But his role is amorphous enough for Stoudemire to take on any responsibility he wants.

Nets GM Sean Marks, who also played with Stoudemire in Phoenix in the mid 2000s. allows him to sit in on management meetings to get a taste of front-office planning, scouting and recruiting strategies and integrating analytics with traditional coaching. Stoudemire is also taking online courses at the University of Miami to expand his abilities for the job.

He still doesn’t like being referred to as a coach – the term “has kind of an older vibe to it” that he’s wary of – but his work is impressing those around him. “I really admire him”, said Nash. “It’s not just our history and our relationship, but how open and inquisitive he is. Amar’e never feels like he’s fully formed; he’s always trying to learn more and do more. So when he showed interest, I said, ‘This is the kind of guy I want.'”