When Amar’e Stoudemire steps back into AmericanArilines Arena on Friday, one thought will be on his mind.
“Home sweet home, baby,” Stoudemire said. “Home sweet home.”
Stoudemire closed his 14-year NBA career — one filled with six All-Star appearances, a Rookie of the Year award and an All-NBA first-team nod — on one-year run with the Miami Heat after eight seasons with the Phoenix Suns, four and a half with the New York Nets and half a season with the Dallas Mavericks.
But his basketball career is still in full swing. After a year in Israel and leading Hapoel Jerusalem to an Israeli Basketball League Cup, he is back stateside and playing in the second season of Ice Cube’s Big3 basketball league.
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If it all works right, Stoudemire’s run in the half-court 3-on-3 basketball league will serve a greater purpose.
If all works according to Stoudemire’s plan, this will help kick-start a second run in the NBA.
“I’m definitely going to make that push,” he said. “Hopefully, that becomes reality.”
Stoudemire, 35, said his time playing in Israel helped him realize he still has enough in the tank to make another run in the NBA.
For a year, Stoudemire said, he played in every game, put in extra time before and after practice and served as a mentor to the younger players on the team.
Everything just felt right, he said.
“My body just started to feel so good that I thought I have to make it back to the NBA,” Stoudemire said. “I retired early to live overseas. I always wanted to live in Israel for one year. I retired early to accomplish that, but now that I accomplished that, I want to make my way back to the NBA.”
Stoudemire said he isn’t expecting to take over a team and be the flashy superstar if a second run in the NBA were to become reality. He wants to be a veteran presence and a guy who can play 15, maybe 20 minutes a game, that occasional spark plug at needed points in a game.
“I feel like there are a lot of teams out there that can use that,” he said. “but I think at the moment teams are working on signing free agents so I’m probably going to fall down on the totem pole a bit until teams are ready to sign people who are on the lower scale as far as contracts are concerned.”
Before he can concern himself with the NBA, Stoudemire has his Big3 obligations to worry about. Friday’s set of games in Miami mark the fifth week of an eight-week regular season that is followed by a two-week, four team playoff. Stoudemire said he trains on his own from Sunday to Thursday.
Teams travel to a different city every Thursday and play at a different venue every Friday night. The first four weeks of the season were in Houston, Chicago, Oakland and Detroit.
“The atmosphere has been amazing,” Stoudemire said. “A lot of families bring out their children to see the players they grew up watching. It also gives us as players a chance to hang out with our friends that we played with throughout the years. It’s a fun environment.”
He expects the environment to be just the same in Miami this week.
“I left Miami with the Heat on a good note,” Stoudemire said. “It’s going to be great to have a chance to go back and play in front of our fans again.”