The Basketball Jones 40: What does that mean exactly? Well, it’s a little hard to define. It’s certainly not a list of the 40 best players in the league right now — in fact, a couple players on the TBJ 40 would be ones that teams would gladly pay just to go away (and some have). And it’s not a list of our 40 favorite players, either — the combined man-hours that some of us have spent rooting against a couple of these guys would certainly disqualify that as well. It’s not even the 40 funniest or most interesting players, as a couple players are dull as dishwater off the court, but do enough on the hardwood to make their inclusion undeniable.
No, the best way we can define the Basketball Jones 40 is as the 40 players that are most important to our site right now. The players we write about the most, the players we follow the closest, the players that TBJ could least afford to be without. And what goes into that is an entire series of factors, ranging from their on-court success to their off-court headline making to their general likability as athletes, celebrities and human beings.
Hit the jump for No. 4 on our list …
A line graph tracing Amar’e's career success would very jagged and rather pointy. He won the Rookie of the Year award out of high school and helped make the 7 Seconds or Less Suns a contender, but then he went out for the season with microfracture surgery. Then he got healthy and got back to a near-MVP level of play, but struggled with a new coach and went down again with eye surgery. Then he regained his status with the Suns and helped resurrect New York basketball on the Knicks, but struggled to mesh with the team’s mid-season acquisition and pulled up gimpy in the playoffs. It’s been a fascinating ride with Amar’e, and we’ve gotten to know him like few others over the years, but it’d be interesting what he could have done (or still do) with a little career stability.
2011 Season: After a slightly bumpy start in his first season with the Knicks, things got magical for Amar’e over the course of a nine-game thirty-point streak—all but one of which were wins—which forever endeared him to NY fans who had previously viewed him as a consolation prize for missing out on LeBron, Wade and even Bosh in the off-season. He was getting MVP chants through mid-season, but the trade for Carmelo changed everything, as it hurt Amar’e's stats and made the team’s leadership situation uncomfortably ambiguous. He’ll always have that first half-season, but now it looks like things might get worse for Amar’e in New York before they get better. (17/20)
Career/Legacy: Amar’e is given a 64% chance of making the Hall of Fame based on his career to his point—impressive, given that his carer has seemed to be perpetually in jeopardy for the majority of his playing days. Six All-Star appearances and a career 21.9 PPG average help with that, as does his tendency to turn it up in the post-season, where he’s made a pair of conference finals runs, averaging nearly 30 a game in one of them. He’s still got a lot of writing to do on his story in New York, and a finals appearance or two wouldn’t hurt, but his mark on the NBA has certainly been made. (8/10)
Drama/Controversy: Amar’e got most of his off-court drama out of the way early, living a childhood that was tumultuous to say the least before falling into organized sport. Since then, most of his drama has been injury related, undergoing a couple terrifying-sounding surgeries that probably still strike fear into the hearts of Suns and Knick fans just to think about. There’s also been a bit of the typical teammate-and-coach-related whinging, and Amar’e did kind of sell Mike D’Antoni down the river towards the end of his Suns tenure, but that stuff’s mostly in the past now anyway. (5/10)
On-Court Move: A little shuffle move with ball in hand, leading to a devastating drive to the basket. Results equally in explosive dunks and empty possessions that end with Amar’e yowling “THAT’S A FOUL!!” Both results are compelling, in their way. (8/10)
Highlight Play: Look out below, Anthony Tolliver. (10/10)
Comedic Potential: Before the summer of 2010, Amar’e was usually just giggle-worthy, prone to the occasional quip or odd fashion choice, but rarely laugh out loud funny. Then, he discovered Israel. Now, he’s worth following on Twitter just to see when he might proclaim “SHALOM!” (8/10)
Nicknames: A guy with a name as fantastically unique as Amar’e Stoudemire doesn’t really need one, but he has one anyway—STAT, an acronym that stands for Standing Tall and Talented, but also much more accurately describes Amare’s proclivity (especially early) for box-score stuffing. He and then-teammate Shaquille O’Neal tried to make Sun Tzu happen for a minute back in 2008, but it was unnecessary and ultimately forgotten. (8/10)
Definitive Quote: “Tell me I can’t, I won’t hear you.” (7/10)
Non-Hoops Ventures: Amar’e's racked up the typical resume of commercials and magazine spreads, and even was one of the NY sports royalty selected to make a pointless cameo in the penultimate episode of Entourage. He’s working on becoming a fashion icon guy person, and in the off-season has even put in work on his first children’s book, no doubt of many. Some folks are not ready for the spotlight of New York; Amar’e is most decidedly not one of them. (4/5)
Poignant NBA Relationship: Probably with point guard of over half a decade Steve Nash, with whom he comprised the most unstoppable pick-and-roll combo since the halcyon days of Stockton and Malone. Both will undoubtedly (hopefully?) achieve great success apart, but it’s hard to believe they could ever quite match the beautiful music they made together. (5/5)
TOTAL SCORE: 80/100