Read Everything That Dunks Must Converge

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Poet in the Post: Dylan Thomas laments Amar'e Stoudemire & the New York Knicks

December 8, 2014


At halftime of their game against Cleveland last week, Charles Barkley felt the Knicks were so historically bad—and they are—that the occasion called for making up words to describe their offense. Instead of triangle he went with blu-blu, or something like that. The thing was, at the time, the Knicks were actually winning. They would go onto lose—and they’ve lost twice since—but at the time not all seemed lost. What makes the Knicks sense of badness so horrendous, however, is that this current group of players really hasn’t been anywhere of note, so this cannot be described as a decline. Furthermore, they’re not young enough for this time spent struggling to be taken as some painful crucible for the league’s future zeitgeist. They are, besides the occasional flair of wasted talent and unconceived talent, awful. 

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Quincy Acy, a third year player whose shaved head and thick beard have aged him by centuries rather than decades, can at times smash through the current state of Madison Square apathy like a sledgehammer. At 6’7” and 240 pounds he is something of a football player playing basketball. He is the ghost of Charles Oakley, but he has no Patrick Ewing to protect and serve. Instead, he’s often paired with Samuel Dalembert, a journeyman, and Amar’e Stoudemire, a fragmented figment of what could have been, in the front court.  


Prior to the game against the Cavs, Amar’e had called out the effort of his team, not necessarily in the sense of an accuser but in the sense of a man recognizing himself as part of something awful. A moment arrives in the game when Acy, looking for those phantoms of a tradition long gone, finds Amar’e with an underhanded interior pass. Amar’e receives the gift, hesitates with an up and under move, and then slams the ball one handed through the net. Acy’s pass was impressive and so, too, was Stoudemire’s patience, especially considering how once upon a time he could’ve dunked the ball without waiting. Two points, however, are two points and perhaps there is nothing to gain in lamenting what has already passed: a young man’s ability to fly.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Shane Larkin, a second year point guard out of Miami, curls off the screen, dribbling down the left side of the lane. He can either attempt a one-handed floater that to find the net would require a miracle of physics and a backboard of forgiveness or he can pass to a man who used to be all those things. He opts for the latter and finds Amar’e in the lane. The older man receives the ball and, as he did when Acy found him earlier in almost the exact same spot, he flushes the ball one-handed.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

J.R. Smith finds Tim Hardaway, Jr. in the corner, beyond the three-point line. Hardaway proceeds to drive into the same space in the middle of the same lane he just vacated. He dishes to Amar’e, who, taking advantage of a frozen Anderson Varejao again flushes the ball one handed. This time, however, there is no hesitation. The move is all instinct and little thought. Posters are made, and Amar’e recognizing this moment for what it is yells with the unraveled spirit of youth.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Just outside the three minute mark, Amar’e backs down Kevin Love. He pounds the ball. He hits a wall that like him is comprised of bone and muscle. The two are of equal weight. The ball strikes the floor again. Amar’e creates space where there was none. He makes a lay-up. He has cut the lead to one. There is a faint glimmer of hope that the Knicks can regain the lead they lost. The Cavs bring the ball up the court, and the possession ends with Kevin Love sinking a three. This is something that Amar’e even when he could leap tall buildings could never do.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


In between the find by Acy and the feed by Larkin, Stoudemire spins around his defender and finds himself lost behind the basket. He is called for traveling. The announcers wonder if the backboard blocked his shot. They begin laughing and joking about how on the playground the opposition would’ve started yelling, “Up and down.” When was the last time Amar’e was even on a playground?

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.  


The game was over before Stoudemire backed down Love. Just under the four minute mark, LeBron James made a three-pointer that gave Cleveland its first lead of the game since 10:37 was left in the second quarter. Then, less than twenty seconds after taking the lead, the Cavs’ point guard, Kyrie Irving, found LeBron James for a dunk. It was Irving’s first assist of the game. It was, for all intents and purposes, over. Amar’e could battle and rage on the block, but nothing could change what had already happened; what will continue to happen. The Knicks are on a long march towards something that can’t be seen. And the music and poetry of what once was Amar’e, even as he tries to motivate his team into fighting the good fight, is nothing more than a raucous howl lost in the darkening haze above the city lights and cold, steel beams. Blu-blu . . . Blu-blu . . . Blu-blu against the dying of the light. 


Bryan Harvey can be followed on Twitter @LawnChairBoys.

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