Amare Stoudemire, Taoist?

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

On Tuesday, Amare Stoudemire was all smiles as he worked a community service event at a Phoenix elementary school. The Arizona Repbulic's Paul Coro caught up with Stoudemire at the event to discuss Stoudemire's persistent statements that the 2009-10 season could be his last in Phoenix:

"This might be my farewell tour, huh?" Stoudemire said. "If so, I'm going out with a bang, baby."

Stoudemire also discussed his dedication to coming back strong from a serious eye injury. He then alluded to his newest source of inspiration:

"They call me 'Sun Tzu,' " Stoudemire said. "That's what they call me nowadays. The methods I use from the ancient general, Sun Tzu, is the leadership method. I feel like using that will help my leadership and help us to get over the hump. I'm going to apply those tactics and those rules to how we're going to approach battle and win."

Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" -- 2500 years old, give or take -- is widely considered history's most influential book on military strategy. It also found its way into the canon of business management, and a favorite of dabblers in Taoism the world over.

Who are the "they" who've dubbed the Suns big man Sun Tzu? We're not sure. But the Republic's Paola Boivin pshaws Stoudemire's self-comparison to the Chinese luminary. Boivin opens her column with a quote form the text ...

"The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom."

... then proceeds to put Stoudemire's comments and conduct in context -- though stops short of a wholesale lambasting, instead challenging Stoudemire to sincerely live up to Sun Tzu's principles:

Are you paying attention, Amaré Stoudemire? This man you've come to admire, this military theorist whose moniker you've chosen to adopt, has some valuable insight on leadership.

Surely somewhere in the Chinese general's book, The Art of War, is a chapter that says conjecture about your possible departure a month removed from Suns training camp is not the right approach to unifying a team, let alone a fan base.

Sigh. Stoudemire has done it again, irking some with his comments Tuesday that the 2009-2010 season "might be my farewell tour." Poor timing? You bet. Worthy of an uproar? Hardly...

... So although the Sun Tzu bit might seem contrived to some, it's Stoudemire trying to flex his leadership muscles and, sure, maybe trying to market himself a little bit. This is the NBA, after all.

This is not to say Stoudemire doesn't need to step up his game. He needs to improve his defense, and he needs to stop talking publicly about what ownership should do with its money. Sometimes you get the feeling Stoudemire has way too many people in his ear.

... If Stoudemire truly believes in the words of Sun Tzu, he'll rise to the occasion and put the team first ... and truly understand the phrase "jewel of the kingdom."