NEW YORK (AP) — Amare Stoudemire’s greatest NBA success was in Phoenix, where as Steve Nash’s pick-and-roll partner he was one of the NBA’s most fearsome finishers.
But he chose to leave the league as a member of the Knicks, the franchise that was mired in a lengthy playoff drought before he signed in 2010 and revitalized the franchise.
Stoudemire retired Tuesday after signing a contract with the Knicks with much less fanfare than the $100 million deal he inked six years ago to halt the team’s downward spiral.
“Although my career has taken me to other places around the country, my heart had always remained in the Big Apple,” he said in a statement. “Once a Knick, Always a Knick.”
Stoudemire was a six-time All-Star, but battled knee injuries after his sensational first season in New York, when he became the first Knicks player to be voted an All-Star starter since Patrick Ewing in 1997.
Still just 33 years old but with knees that hadn’t been healthy in years, the 6-foot-10 forward asked team president Phil Jackson and general manager Steve Mills to add another signing to the ones they hope will lead to the first playoff berth since Stoudemire left.
“I came to New York in 2010 to help revitalize this franchise and we did just that,” Stoudemire said. “Carmelo (Anthony), Phil and Steve have continued this quest, and with this year’s acquisitions, the team looks playoff-bound once again.”
Madison Square Garden was energized again as Stoudemire rewrote the Knicks’ record book during his first season, breaking Willie Naulls’ 48-year-old franchise record by scoring 30 or more points in nine straight games.
With Carmelo Anthony arriving by trade midway through that 2010-11 season, the Knicks made the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Stoudemire remained with the team until midway through the 2014-15 season, always a popular player even after injuries forced him into a diminished role.
“For parts of six years, Amare Stoudemire was the face of the New York Knicks franchise because of his excellence on the court and his dedication to our community and our fans across the world,” Mills said. “When Amare asked us to retire as a Knick, we were honored to oblige.”
Stoudemire was the No. 9 pick in the 2002 draft and averaged 21.4 points in eight seasons with the Suns, teaming with point guard Nash to help them become the NBA’s most potent offense. Stoudemire had just led the Suns to the 2010 Western Conference finals before joining his former coach there, Mike D’Antoni, in New York.
“As the 2003 NBA Rookie of the Year and a five-time All-Star during his time in Phoenix, Amare’s eight seasons with our franchise provided some of the most exciting Suns basketball this city has ever seen,” the Suns said in a statement.
Stoudemire signed a five-year deal in 2010 with the Knicks and averaged 25.3 points in his first season.
But he never came close again to the 78 games he played that season, needing multiple surgeries that eventually forced him into a bench role playing restricted minutes. He was an effective one for a time, helping the Knicks win the 2013 Atlantic Division title, but agreed to a contract buyout at the 2015 All-Star break after the team was no longer a playoff contender.
He finished that season with Dallas and played last season in Miami, ending his career with 18.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.