New York Knicks fans got their 2013 off to a happy start on Tuesday night, even though their team did lose to the Portland Trail Blazers, 105-100. Star big man Amar'e Stoudemire made his long-anticipated return to the court, having missed the first two months recovering from knee surgery.
Stoudemire's performance was as expected following his standing ovation. On his first offensive touch, he turned the ball over by stepping out of bounds.
As a whole, he looked rusty over his 17 minutes and shot 3-of-8 from the field for six points. Said points did not occur until later in the game, but Stoudemire made sure to make them look good. Of the six, four came on one-handed slams.
However, his performance was not the story of the night.
Rather, it was the grand hero's welcome the man received once he entered the game late in the first quarter. Fans gave him a standing ovation before he even took a shot, and they went nuts whenever he had the ball.
It was something of an odd reaction, given how Stoudemire's tenure with the Knicks has been defined by inconsistent defense and constant injuries, but the fans' reaction at the Garden clearly said something.
It was as though the fans were saying "It's a new year, and a new season. Time to put the past behind us and look toward the future. Welcome back, Amar'e!"
Naturally, the Twitter-verse reacted accordingly. ESPN New York's Ian Begley took note of not only the ovation but how a teammate reacted.
Loud ovation with some fans standing as Amar'e checks in with 3:31 to play. Gets a hug from Tyson Chandler as he walks on the floor.
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) January 2, 201
Al Iannazzone of Newsday, on the other hand, felt a need to note how Stoudemire looked in his first minutes of the season. Naturally, he did not sugarcoat it.
Amar'e looks rusty, as expected. But overall every Knick did in the first quarter except Carmelo Anthony.
— Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) January 2, 2013
The greatest tweet of the night, however, came from Stoudemire himself. Instead of being down on himself for being rusty and not performing up to par, he just chose to reach out to the fans who stood and cheered for him when he stepped onto the court.
Thank you so much for the standing ovation, 😥I wanted to cry. I love you guys so much (Fans). I willing to do what ever I can to help us win
— Amar'e Stoudemire (@Amareisreal) January 2, 2013
That said, while Amar'e Stoudemire's return may not have been ideal in the minds of the hardcore fans, it was nice to see the fans welcome him back with such open arms. The man has worked so hard just to get back on the court, and the standing ovation is a testament to just how much the New York fans truly appreciate him.