Many players dream of playing their sport professionally and only a handful get to experience that reality. The majority start from a young age, but for Amare Stoudemire, he wouldn’t start playing organized basketball until he was 14. In spite of that, Stoudemire would go on to play in the NBA 14 years, the majority of which were with the Phoenix Suns. He was the 2003 NBA Rookie of the Year and made six appearances in the NBA All-Star game, and also won a bronze medal with the United States national team at the 2004 Olympic Games. We interviewed Stoudemire in 2008 and talked with him about the meaning behind his tattoos and the promise he made to God as a kid.
Stoudemire opens up about how his tattoos tell a story and what the one of Matthew 20:16 means to him.
“Cartoon, a famous tattoo artist, does most of them. All my tattoos are dedicated to god, really. My kids are young and if I died right now they could get to know me by my tats, what I stand for and what I believe in and how I made it out of poverty. My tattoos are my testimony…It’s a testimonial about poverty—The first shall be last and the last first, many are called but few are chosen. When you’re growin’ up on the streets it’s kind of tough to be successful. Due to slavery we’re still a few steps behind and it takes a lot more to be what you want to be, because you’re not able to see what you need to see. You’re not able to touch what you need to touch. You’re not able to grow, all because of slavery. That’s why I started my Each One Teach One Foundation. I made it out [of poverty] due to being a great basketball player. A lot of kids aren’t going to be able to dunk on Shaquille O’Neal, or shoot over LeBron James. Some players, some kids can’t do that, so there’re more ways to make it out besides sports. We’re trying to stress the fact that education is the way.”
“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matthew 20:13-16
Stoudemire reflects on a promise he made to God as a kid and his life after basketball.
“There’ve been lots of prayers, I’ll tell you that. I definitely wanted to help my family, as far as my mom and my older brother and my younger brother. I definitely wanted to be the best I could be for them, so I told God that if he would allow me to be the best basketball player I could be, I’d do a job for Him, I’d be an ambassador. That’s what I’m doing now…There’s more to life than basketball. A lot of players say basketball is their life; they eat, breath, and dream basketball. Basketball, basketball, basketball. Well, it’s the same for me, but when I’m done, I’m done. I’ll hang my shoes up and let my son grab the ball.”
Tell a story. You don’t have to go out and get a tattoo. Instead, let your life be a reflection of God’s love and grace for us. Our words, actions and conversations each have the potential of telling His story. Sit down this week and write out your spiritual journey—what your life was like before you came to know Christ, how you came to know Christ, and what He is teaching you now. Share it with a close friend, small group leader or pastor. Ask them to give you feedback. Pray and ask God who he wants you to share it with. It could be a friend, family member or neighbor. Ask them what their story is and listen to what they share.
Decide who you are living for. We need to daily decide who and what we are living for. Sometimes it is good to take a step back and evaluate our priorities. It can even be good to go away for a weekend for a retreat. During this time, pray and write down what God wants you to live for, what He has called you to, and ask Him to identify any areas in your life that are holding you back from living that out.
Be an ambassador. God has placed each of us in different situations to be an ambassador for Him. It could be an athletic team, a classroom or a company. In order for us to be an effective ambassador, we need to know the one we are representing. If you don’t know God personally, ask a pastor or friend that knows God any questions that you have about the faith. If you are a believer, commit to spending time daily to reading the Bible and praying so that you can be an ambassador for Christ to those around you.
To read our entire interview with Amare Stoudemire, click here.