Amar’e Stoudemire has retired after one season with the Miami Heat and now some people are wondering if he belongs in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. I’m not quite sure I can get there.
The guy was a dominant big man with the Phoenix Suns right out of high school and played 14 years in the NBA. He gets the celebrity boost, too, of playing with the New York Knicks late in his career. Overall, an average of 18.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game over such a long period is worthy of respect.
If somebody wants to argue Amar’e for the Hall then, I won’t fight too much. Already he’s one of the best players ever to come out of Florida and that ought to be worth a few bonus points.
Who are the other all-time greats from our state? Here’s my list, and undoubtedly some obvious name is being left off due to my stupidity alone. I’ll trust you to chime in and fill in the blanks, or at least volunteer to switch my order around.
- Artis Gilmore – From the panhandle town of Chipley, he made five ABA all-star teams and six more in the NBA, and that was after pushing Jacksonville to the NCAA title game. A Naismith Hall of Famer.
- David Robinson – Born in Key West, I can’t put him at No. 1 because he was part of a Navy family and actually spent his teenage years in Virginia. A 10-time NBA all-star and founder of the Spurs’ dynasty. A Naismith Hall of Famer.
- Mitch Richmond – He’s from Boyd Anderson High School in Lauderdale Lakes and sometimes gets overlooked but the Naismith voters put him in the Hall in 2014 so that’s the ultimate confirmation. Averaged 21.5 points and 3.5 assists and had his jersey retired by Sacramento Kings.
- Amar’e Stoudemire – He’s from Lake Wales but bounced all over Central Florida playing for various schools. Finished up at Cypress Creek High in Orlando. A physical force who didn’t play organized basketball until the age of 14 and jumped right to NBA from high school.
- Vince Carter – Eight times an NBA all-star, he led Daytona Beach Mainland to a state title, took North Carolina to a couple of Final Fours and amazed at every level with his acrobatic skills. Was an NBA Slam-Dunk Contest winner.
- Tracy McGrady – Born in Bartow and went to high school in Auburndale for every year but his last, when he transferred to a school in North Carolina. Seven times an NBA all-star and twice the league scoring champion.
- Otis Birdsong – From Winter Haven High School, he made four NBA all-star teams and was among the nation’s leading scorers at the University of Houston. Averaged 18 points per game as a pro and was drafted second overall in 1977 by the Kansas City Kings.
- Eddie Jones – From Ely High School in Pompano Beach, he played five-plus seasons for the Miami Heat and shot 38 percent for them from three-point range. Played 81 postseason games for five different teams, including the Lakers early in his career. A college star at Temple.
- Otis Thorpe – From Boynton Beach, he played at Lake Worth High School. Worked on raw offensive skills until the NBA’s Kings made him a first-round draft pick out of Providence. An NBA all-star in 1992, he won one title with the Rockets and averaged 14 points and 8.2 rebounds in 18 seasons.
- Darryl Dawkins – ‘Chocolate Thunder’ was his nickname and shattering backboards with savage dunks was his trademark. Right out of high school in Orlando he pushed and shoved the NBA’s big men and inspired some of them to lift more weights.
I’ll throw in a few more names that could have made the top 10, recognizing that there’s some Palm Beach County bias on my part.
Derek Harper (West Palm Beach), Vernon Maxwell (Gainesville), Howard Porter (Sarasota), Chandler Parsons (Winter Park) and Udonis Haslem (Miami).
Seems like there ought to be more, but we don’t to dilute the criteria too much.
What do you think?