FEW have physically dominated the game of basketball like Amar’e Stoudemire and Shawn Kemp. The two injury-plagued forwards never reached their full potential, but for a brief period of time, they wowed us with their above the rim athleticism on a nightly basis. On paper ‘S.T.A.T’ and ‘Reign Man’ had very similar NBA careers, but the two deserve us to dig deeper to determine who had the better tenure in the league.
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BOTH Amar’e and Shawn managed to play 14 seasons in the NBA, making the postseason on 10 occasions each. Kemp did technically play more playoffs games than Stoudemire and while Amar’e boasted higher averages than his Seattle counterpart, there was ery little difference between his regular-season averages and the ones he produced in the playoffs. The man affectionately known as ‘S.T.A.T.’ never did make it to the NBA Finals, despite playing alongside a two-time MVP in eight seasons Phoenix, with his best finish coming in the form of a pair of Conference Finals berths. Kemp helped Seattle breakthrough to the final series of the season in 1996 – where his play was a large reason they were able to take Jordan and the Bulls to six games. Playing more playoff games means little, but improving on his others rather than sitting stagnant gives Kemp a 1-0 lead.
I’VE already highlighted how Steve Nash helped Amar’e reach great heights once he entered the NBA, with the pair forming one of the most impactful one-two punches in the entire league. Their pick-and-roll tandem helped Stoudemire average at least 20 PPG on six occasions, before adding a seventh high-scoring season with the Knicks. Kemp had a rough showing in his rookie year, but went on to average 17.9 PPG and 10.0 RPG during 10 seasons as a Sonic and a Cavalier. Much like most veterans, Kemp saw his production tail off in the latter part of his career, with both he and Stoudemire transforming into nearly non-factors offensively once they lost their athleticism. Compared to Stoudemire, Kemp managed just one season averaging north of 20 points, with the former Sun also owning a much greater field-goal percentage for his career (48.8% compared to 53.7%). Advantage, Amar’e.
AS is the way in most of these Compare the Pair argument’s, one dude dominates the offensive debate, and one dominates the defensive debate. Nothing new here. With injuries plaguing part of Stoudemire’s career, Kemp outpaced when it came to career totals. However, Kemp also claims bragging rights as the proud owner of a higher rebounding, steal and block career average then Stoudemire. The ‘Reign Man’ was tasked with guarding the likes of Charles Barkley, Chris Webber and Karl Malone in the late 90’s while Stoudemire was forced to go to war with superstars like Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki. It’s impossible to split those two groups, with both Kemp and S.T.A.T. forced to defend some of the game’s greatest big men. Neither will be remembered for their defensive prowess, but Kemp’s ability to quell his superstar peers was greater than Stoudamire’s.
STOUDEMIRE – 2005 West Finals
THE 2004-05 season was a fruitful one for Amar’e Stoudemire, culminating in his first All-Star appearance, a spot on the All-NBA Second team and the greatest playoff series of his career. Stoudemire averaged 26.0 PPG during that season and he carried that scoring binge over into the postseason, where he scored 30 or more 11 times in 15 tries. It was impossible to pick one game of the West Finals against the Spurs where Stoudemire shone brightest, with Phoenix’s power forward averaging 37.0 points for the series to go along with 9.8 rebounds. That five game stretch is widely regarded as the best of Stoudemire’s career with S.T.A.T. saving his best game for last. Facing elimination in Game 5, Stoudemire posted 42 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks against San Antonio, but received little help from his teammates. Considering Duncan had won two MVP’s and two titles by that point, it’s fair to say that Amar’e outperformed him on this occasion.
KEMP – 2006 East Finals Game 5
THE most iconic moment from Shawn Kemp’s career came when he absolutely pulverized poor Alton Lister with his infamous poster during the ’92 playoffs. When chasing the best moment from Kemp’s career it’s hard to overlook his performance in the 1996 NBA Finals, despite losing to Michael Jordan and a juggernaut Chicago team in six games. ‘Reign Man’ came to play for Seattle, averaging 23.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in the series, all while 55% shooting from the field. His first three games were impressive, but with Seattle in a 3-0 hole, Kemp went on to score 47 points over in the next two games – both double-digit Supersonic wins to breath life into the series. Chicago rarely faced a challenge like Kemp in their 31 playoff series’ throughout the 90’s with the Seattle forward coming close to stealing Finals MVP honours from MJ.
Everything matters more in the NBA Finals. As much as I want to give the nod to Stoudamire here for his offensive eruption, I can’t pick against Kemp’s ’96 Finals. The score does suggest a competitive series against Chicago, but the Bulls cruised through their first three victories, leaving some to downplay the Supersonic’s two wins in the series. Make no mistake though, without Shawn Kemp in uniform, Seattle would’ve been swept.
Edge: Kemp (Just)
ONCE again the accolades between these two are very close, with both Stoudemire and Kemp qualifying for six All-Star teams in their 14 pro seasons. Amar’e takes advantage in the All-NBA appearances though, with four selections on the Second team and a lone appearance on the First team in 2007. Kemp’s peak in the middle of the 90’s led to him making just three All-NBA Second times between ’94-’96. Throwing S.T.A.T’s 2003 Rookie of the Year award into the mix all but ends this awards debate, with the former Phoenix phenom claiming another W.
IF you weren’t aware, Amar’e Stoudemire’s nickname S.T.A.T is an acronym for Standing Tall and Talented. While Stoudemire certainly does that, he decided to put that playful moniker to work in the form of a series of children’s books. The stories a re partly autobiographical where an 11-year old Amar’e first discovers his talents on the court that help him overcome obstacles en route to becoming the successful person he is today. Stoudemire has also been praised for his philanthropic work firstly in Phoenix, then in parts of Africa including Sierra Leone and Mali, expanding the global game in Canada and Isreal. Unfortunately for Shawn Kemp, he can’t hold a cnadle to Amar’e in this category, with his impact on the game off the court nowhere nearly as profound.
VERDICT – AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE
DESPITE this clash finishing in a 3-3 tie at the conclusion of the head-to-head categories, I can’t pick against Amar’e as the owner of the better NBA career. Both power forwards spent the first eight years of their NBA journey with the Sonics and the Suns respectively, with their per-game averages identifying a clear winner.
Stoudemire: 21.4 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 54.4 FG%
Kemp: 16.2 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 48.8 FG%
A stint with New York for Amar’e and Cleveland for Shawn was the last sight of the dominant duo at full powers, with their style of play aging poorly thanks to their reliance on athleticism and the continued banging in the post over a decade long period. Injuries curtailed the latter part of Stoudemire’s Knicks tenure, with the scoring dynamo owning an average of 21.6 PPG through nine and a half seasons before going down – only to see that number rest on 18.9 PPG when he left the league. A lot of Kemp’s shortcomings and problems weren’t injury motivated, instead stemming from a lack of motivation, struggles with his weight and at the tail end of his career, problems with cocaine and alcohol abuse. Take nothing away from the earlier parts of Kemp’s career, but a higher peak and maintaining it for a longer stretch gives S.T.A.T. the victory.