Newly-signed Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson and oft-maligned NY Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire are like blood brothers. They both bleed orange and blue and entered into life-altering decisions that have thrust them into the temperamentally vicious, overly ambitious, and often unappreciative NY sports culture.
In doing so, both embarked on a journey with its share of rough spots, but it’s a gutsy one that will ultimately gain them favorable recollection in the annals of NY sports. Some will say their moves were dictated by the paper. Regardless, they will be remembered for their willingness to embrace the colossal task of performing in the toughest sports city in the world.
Just a few months into Stoudemire’s first season after signing with the Knicks as a free agent in 2010, the former Phoenix Suns star set a franchise record with nine-straight 30 point games that had Madison Square Garden rocking again and the Knicks thinking playoffs.
During the first eight games of that run, Stoudemire averaged an insane 33.9 points on .584 shooting. More importantly, the Knicks had developed great chemistry, and during Amare’s scoring streak, NY also recorded its first eight-game winning streak in 16 years.
At 16-9, they were off to their best start after 25 games since they were 18-7 in 1996-97. Stoudemire ended up having a killer season, averaging 25.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2 blocks and a career high 2.6 assists, while shooting a surprising 43% from three point range. The Knicks "fourth choice" was performing at a first-class level. You could see the difference between the old Knicks and the way one unstoppable force change your entire team's fortunes.
The Knicks weren't done though. They still craved a top five name.
On February 22, 2011, the Knicks made a 3-team trade with the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves that sent Nuggets superstar Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks along with the Nuggets' starting point guard Chauncey Billups.
The Knicks gave up everything but the kitchen sink and Amare for Melo, but the Dolans finally had two superstars of their own to flaunt. The addition of Melo, however, was, in a way, the end for Amare. He was never the same. Melo’s immense presence and hometown ties took Amare’s shots and eventually his shine. That 30-point barrage was Stoudemire’s last moment as the No. 1 man on this Knicks team.
It seems like decades ago. Amare’s Knicks glory was so brief, just like Jeremy Lin’s, except Amare stuck around to endure the fall from grace.
He’s been battling injuries, unhappiness and his sudden dethronement as NY's King ever since. There were some who felt that even with Anthony, Amare should have been a 1A on the Knicks. He had earned that in his brief tenure. But Melo’s health, ball-domination and dynamic scoring has since squelched that thought.
If you recall, prior to the 2010-11 season, no one wanted to sign with the Knicks. They were such a mess that LeBron and the other top free agents would rather take pay cuts than come to the Rotten Apple for a full max-money salary. Chris Bosh bolted to Miami with Wade, who re-upped with the Heat. LeBron shunned the Knicks too and became the final member of the two-time defending champion “Big Three.”
Even Joe Johnson dipped to Brooklyn. The only stud willing to embrace the sure challenge and uphill battle back to respectability that lay ahead for the Knicks was Stoudemire. Sure, he got paid, but he was a big-money player anyway. His injuries were a concern over the long haul, but when it became apparent that LeBron wasn’t coming through, the Knicks couldn’t be left with goose eggs or eggs on their faces after an offseason that began with so much hope.
So they bit the bullet, rolled the dice and hoped for the best with Amare. He accepted the weight of the NY basketball world and did his part for as long as he was physically and psychologically able to. It just didn’t last as long as Knicks Nation envisioned.
Granderson is in a similar situation to Amare. Granderson is a three-time MLB All-Star (2009, 2011–2012) and won the Silver Slugger Award in 2011. Granderson developed into a feared lefty slugger in Yankee Stadium, mashing 84 total homers in 2010 and 2011. Injuries wrecked his 2012 and limited him to just 61 games. By the time he was healthy, it seemed he was the odd man out in the Yankees' restructuring plan. The diminutive bomber’s four-year $60 million contract with the Mets was out of the Yankees price range. At age 32 and coming off an injury-plagued season, both parties felt that the relationship had run its course.
The Mets, similar to the Knicks before Amare made his leap of faith, have been the laughing stock of baseball for some time. These once proud franchises not only share the same colors, but a recent losing history highlighted by egregious ownership.
Amare’s signing offered the Knicks a ray of hope in an otherwise ugly time. Granderson’s arrival in Queens could have a similar effect. At least until they can get another star who hasn’t played for the Yankees, to really be the other face of the team alongside David Wright.
Mets fans have been craving for ownership to spend some of that cash they promised to share on a big-name bopper this offseason. As usual the Mets were not being open or aggressive with their plan of pursuit, but other teams such as the Yankees were offering up contracts and mix-mastering the chessboard left and right. Finally, the Wilpons gave Flushing fans what they desired by signing Granderson, who could have taken a pay cut and remained a Yankee. He certainly could have signed somewhere else for similar cheddar, but obviously Granderson loves NY. He thrived under the bright lights as a key cog in a dope Yankees lineup and, if healthy, will boost this Mets offense considerably. He may not hit 40 home runs, but he will provide some punch. Strike outs will happen, but he’ll come through in the clutch, too.
The Mets aren’t winning a World Series this season, just as the Knicks weren’t in 2011 when the Celtics swept them in the first round of the playoffs. At the very least they’re trying to have a winning record for the first time since 2008. The Mets haven’t won a World Series since 1986 and fans are demanding that ownership at least give a sign that they are committed to winning.
With all debts paid and obligations litigated concerning the Bernie Madoff scandal that “crippled” the Mets financially and held their baseball operations hostage for almost three seasons, ownership promised to cut some checks this offseason.
Signing a “name” like Granderson not only satisfies the hungry wolves a bit, but brings respectability to that Mets lineup and integrity to the front office’s claims to get back in the MLB rat race.
Amare’s moment in the NY sun was brief but was a symbolic catalyst for a much brighter period in NY basketball history. Following nine straight losing seasons, the Knicks have been to the playoffs every year since he’s been here. They might not have captured the championship that New Yorkers always demand, but as soon as Amare touched down in the Mecca, the Knicks stopped being losers. That counts for something.
Granderson probably won't win a World Series with the Mets. He's the first addition to a rebuilding process that was already set back by losing ace Matt Harvey for the season. He'll never be as much of a hero as the free agent that comes in after him and actually helps get the Mets back to the promised land.
But regardless of how it shakes out, NY owes major dap to the courageousness (and greed) of Amare Stoudemire and Curtis Granderson. When NY sports needed a boost and cats ran for the hills seeking smoother sailings, these soldiers answered the bell and chose to ride the wild bull.