Stoudemire Believes He's Overlooked in NBA History
In NBA history, that is.
The Phoenix Suns forward sees how Cleveland's LeBron James is regarded by many as the first NBA player to star immediately after coming in from high school. That causes Stoudemire to pause and wonder, "What about me?''
Stoudemire, to refresh, was the first player to be named NBA Rookie of the Year after arriving directly from high school. He averaged 13.5 points and 8.8 rebounds for the Suns in 2002-03 to beat out Houston center Yao Ming.
Then came James the next season straight from high school. He averaged 20.9 points and 5.9 rebounds for the Cavaliers in being named Rookie of the Year.
"I definitely [get overlooked],'' Stoudemire said in an interview with FanHouse. "That year it was tough going against Yao Ming as far as Rookie of the Year, and I was able to win that award. Sometimes you get lost in the shuffle when the year after such great players as Carmelo [Anthony of Denver], Dwyane [Wade of Miami] and Lebron came in. I think I did get overlooked a little.''
Yes, Moses Malone did average 18.8 points and 14.6 rebounds going directly from high school to the ABA's Utah Stars in 1974-75. But until Stoudemire's arrival, no player straight from high school made a huge impact as an NBA rookie.
Minnesota's Kevin Garnett did average 10.4 points in 1995-96, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant 7.6 in 1996-97 and Toronto's Tracy McGrady 7.0 in 1997-98. But none came close to being named Rookie of the Year.
"Garnett was OK,'' said Stoudemire, who has built upon his fine start by averaging 21.0 points and 8.9 rebounds for his career and making five All-Star Games. "Kobe was OK. McGrady was OK. But I was able to win Rookie of the Year. I was the first to ever do it [straight from high school]. Then LeBron gets it the year after. I think when LeBron came after me, he had so much hype that [people] tend to forget the fact that I was the first.''
Suns coach Alvin Gentry understands how Stoudemire feels. But he also knows the power of the James hype machine.
"I mean, probably,'' Gentry says of Stoudemire having been overlooked in history. "The fact that he was Rookie of the Year says a lot. ... But the LeBron phenomenon is going to trump anything out there. The guy has probably got an opportunity of ending up the all-time greatest player to ever put on a uniform.
"In that respect, I can understand how it would go that way. But I think that Amar'e has a legitimate beef. Being Rookie of the Year and coming out of high school, nobody has done that before him.''
And, if NBA rules stay the same, nobody else will do it other than Stoudemire and James. The NBA began to bar players entering directly from high school beginning with the 2006 draft.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@christomasson