Who’s Better: Amar’e Stoudemire Or Shawn Kemp?

10.13.11 7 years ago 33 Comments
The battle of the beast. Yesterday we brought you an epic Who’s Better between healthy versions of Grant Hill, Penny Hardaway and Tracy McGrady. Today, it’s another old school vs. new school edition, the original and the evolution: Shawn Kemp vs. Amar’e Stoudemire. These are two of the most athletically gifted players we’ve ever seen, and as power forwards, we can’t help but compare them.

One is only halfway through his career. The other spent 14 years shattering rims and logic throughout the NBA. But now we ask: which player is better? We argue. You decide.

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AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE
I’m reading your reaction to this question right now: I guarantee that you believe the answer is Shawn Kemp. You’re wrong.

Was Kemp a great player? Yes. But he averaged over 20 points a game just once in 14 years. Think about that. Stoudemire has done it in every full season since his rookie year (almost a decade). Even Kemp’s rebounding numbers – supposedly perhaps the strongest part of his game – only eclipsed double-digits six times. Kemp made just six All-Star teams. Even with an entire season lost to injury, Stoudemire has already tied him and yet is only turning 29 next week. Kemp made three All-NBA Second Teams throughout his entire career. That means in only three of 14 seasons, people thought he was one of the top 10 players in the league. Stoudemire has already made that team four times, and also made the First Team in 2007.

Take the four best seasons from STAT and Kemp. Amar’e owns three of them, and his 2004-05 and 2007-08 seasons – when he put up PERs of 27.6 and 26.6 – are way beyond anything Kemp ever did.

The ghost of Steve Nash followed Stoudemire wherever he went for six seasons. Nash makes everyone look so good, we figured STAT was his toy; Nash winds him up and lets him go. But then the big man went to New York, and proceeded to have the best all-around season of his career. Over 25 a night, 50 percent shooting, 2.6 dimes and nearly two blocks a game. And to think those numbers went down as the season went along; the Knicks were asking nearly too much from him. Nash never made Amar’e. STAT will Stand Tall wherever he plays.

But here’s something that isn’t discussed too often: Shawn Kemp fell off once he was traded to Cleveland and lost out on Gary Payton‘s pristine lobs. No, I’m not talking about the weight or the drugs. I’m talking about just before that downward spiral began. In his three years with the Cavs, Kemp’s defense completely fell off, never averaging more than 1.2 blocks a night. His scoring stayed the same, but his rebounding numbers dropped considerably and the biggest mark of all: in three seasons there, he shot 44 percent, then 48 … and then just under 42 percent! As a big man. Wasn’t that the argument everyone used against Amar’e all these years? “Once he has to create his own shot – without a big-time point guard – he’ll fall off.” For his career, Stoudemire shoots it at 54 percent.

Perhaps the weakest part of STAT’s game is his ballhandling and court vision. Too bad Kemp was just as bad (For their careers, Amar’e averages 1.5 assists, 2.7 turnovers … Kemp was at 1.6 assists, 2.6 turnovers.).

Lastly, people love to drop sweet music on Kemp’s performance in the 1996 NBA Finals. They’ll call him the best player on the floor. They’ll say he was unstoppable. All of it could be true. He dropped 23.3 points on 55% shooting from the field, 10 rebounds and two blocks through the six games. But that doesn’t come close to what STAT did to Tim Duncan during the 2005 Western Conference Finals. Stoudemire took the best power forward of all-time, rolled him up into a little ball and straight whipped him all over the court. 37 points a game he gave Timmy D (on 55 percent from the floor). That’s not “Oh he might’ve been the best on the floor.” That’s “He just spanked the s— outta the Big Fundamental.” In the last game of the series, STAT went for 42, 16 and four blocks. Stupid.

And finally, do I really need to mention that those Seattle teams Kemp starred on were some of the most UNDERACHIEVING TEAMS IN NBA HISTORY. Hmm, thinking about it now, don’t player and team seem to fit? Kemp forever failed to reach his vast potential. At least with Amar’e, we know he’ll work through injuries and keep his body in shape (he’s a fitness/health freak).

Stoudemire hasn’t won a title yet – hasn’t even made the Finals – but at least he hasn’t been a part of repeated collapses in the playoffs. Kemp was good, but any way you put it, Stoudemire just comes out looking a little better.
-SEAN SWEENEY

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