Sophomore of the Year
By Jeramie McPeek,
Posted: Feb. 14, 2004
“Bron” this. “Melo” that.
The buzz entering All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles surrounded this year’s first-year phenoms, Cleveland Cavaliers guard LeBron James and Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony. But Suns forward Amaré Stoudemire quickly reminded the basketball world that he is still the reigning Rookie of the Year with his record performance during the ‘got milk?’ Rookie Challenge.
“It feels great, man,” he said after scoring 36 points, the most ever in the rookie-sophomore exhibition, and earning MVP honors. “It’s like a dream come true. Out here in L.A., All-Star Weekend, capture the MVP, break a record… it’s amazing.”
Perhaps even more amazing was how he did it. After boldly predicting that his sophomores were going to “blow out” the rookies during a pre-game press conference, Stoudemire and company did just that, winning 142-118. In fact, the second-year stars, which also featured Houston’s Yao Ming and the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili, had such a large lead entering the fourth quarter that the two teams agreed to call off the competition and turn the final minutes into an impromptu dunk fest.
“The sophomores kind of took over, so we just went out there and put on a show towards the end,” laughed Stoudemire, who recorded 11 boards and nearly that many monster dunks. “That’s what it’s all about at All-Star, especially in L.A. It’s all about just going out there and enjoying yourself, and putting on a show.”
While the fans that had filled STAPLES Center filed out with smiles on their faces, the players and coaches talked backstage about the talent level of the league’s youngest stars, and, in particular, Stoudemire.
“I live in Phoenix, so I get to see him all the time,” said the rookies’ coach Doug Collins. “He is a tremendous athlete. Once he gets confident to shoot that 15-foot jump shot, he’s going to be indefensible. He can run the floor. He can explode. He’s a terrific player.”
“Amaré is great,” agreed James, who put up 33 points of his own in the loss. “He’s the most athletic big man I’ve seen in a long time. He’s been working on his game and all he’s going to do is keep getting better. You know, the sky’s the limit for him.”
Yes, Stoudemire’s future is definitely sky high. But even with his statement game heard loud and clear, there was still one more question he had to answer? “Who will replace you as this year’s Rookie of the Year? Bron or Melo?”
“That’s tough,” Amaré said, followed by a long pause. “That’s real tough. Both of those guys are really good friends of mine. Both of those guys are having a great year so far, so right now I’d give it a co-Rookie of the Year.”