**This piece was written by Rhonda Dearborn, a contributing writer at Knicks Journal**
Earlier in the NBA season, there were many who supported the concept that Amar’e Stoudemire was a valid candidate for MVP. Those same voices have long dismissed the concept. However, I’d like to revive the campaign right here and now. This Knicks franchise would be at ground zero if it weren’t for Stoudemire. He came here when there was little reason to take such a risk. He could have come here for the money and just worried about his own stats. He could have come here, talked a good game, but then simply just cashed a paycheck and that would have lived up to all of the “haters’” expectations.
Upon agreeing to sign with the Knicks he declared, “the Knicks are back,” much to the dismay of many of his critics.
Did Stoudemire have 100 million reasons to come to New York? Sure, but becoming a New York Knick was about something else for him as well. I think Amar’e savvy enough to understand what this city, its fans, and the media, had in store for anyone foolish enough to come here and underperform. He wanted his own team to lead. He wanted to face his critics and show them what he is fully capable of: leading a winning team to greatness.
While he is not quite there yet, and things are at a rather low point after Friday night’s loss to the lowly Detroit Pistons, STAT yet again stood up to the glare of the media and stated, “the D’Antoni system works,” thus sending a message to every member of his team, including Carmelo Anthony, who opted not to talk with reporters after the tough loss.
In good times and bad, it is Amar’e Stoudemire who is the vocal leader. Even during the fourth quarter of an absolute blowout, with the Knicks up 24 on the Jazz, Amar’e was first up off the bench, exhorting the bench players who were still in the game, rooting them on and was the first one launching to slap hands with them during an officials’ time out.
While the Knicks are in a transition period now, after the Carmelo Anthony trade grappling with who they want to be, the team is certainly better off today than they were yesterday, and perhaps only a few pieces of the puzzle away from being a true contender. The team should thank Stoudemire for the already present progress.
There is no confusing the fact that Stoudemire was the pioneer that sparked the renaissance of the New York Knicks; his presence was the one that ultimately reeled in Carmelo Anthony. Now, other key role players and perhaps even all-star caliber players will want to come to the Knicks, play with Amar’e and ‘Melo, and make this team better.
It is in good times and bad where true leaders stand apart, but the Knicks’ leader has more to do. It will be up to Stoudemire to get Anthony and his new teammates on the same page with the coach,. It will continue to be his responsibility to speak with his team and strengthen their resolve on defense, to study film and try to improve his own defensive shortcomings.
It will even be up to Stoudemire, as the season goes on, to make sure his team keeps up the pace and maintains their defensive intensity late in games. All that responsibility is a lot to put on the shoulders of one man. However, Amar’e Stoudemire is fully capable. He should continue to be recognized as the Knicks’ true MVP.