PGU Staff Writer
A few weeks ago, a Pointguardu.com member asked us what Salim Stoudamire was up to these days. The last time we saw Stoudamire, he was playing for the Milwaukee Bucks summer league team in 2009. News about Stoudamire had been non-existent until he was drafted by the NBA D-League Idaho Stampede on November 1st. Stoudamire sat down with PGU to discuss life, basketball, and what he was doing this past year.
The first thing one notices is that the dreads are back. But the second thing is that Stoudamire looked, and sounded, genuinely happy. Often known for his scowl, Stoudamire sounded like a new person.
“I’m at peace,” Stoudamire said. “When you’re immersed in something it’s hard to look at it from a different perspective. And the injury was a blessing in disguise. It gave me a chance to step away from the game and examine myself and I did a lot of introspection and I realized the things that were causing me negative results. Over the past two years I’ve stepped away from the spotlight and worked on me. I worked on all the things that were preventing me from being happy in the past.”
The injury Stoudamire refers to is a groin injury that not only derailed his NBA career, but made it difficult to come back.
“I initially hurt it on the first day of training camp with San Antonio in 2008,” Stoudamire remembers. “I tried to come back three times after I initially injured it and then I hurt it again in the summer league. Last year in the NBA summer league I shouldn’t have been playing, but I didn’t want to create any friction with the Milwaukee staff, so I just fought through it and did whatever was asked of me.”
That injury is no longer an issue, thanks to some unconventional medicine and some personal time.
“I’m 100 percent fine, the groin is healthy and no other injuries,” Stoudamire explained. “After the Bucks, I went to a healing village in Honduras and that’s where I got healthy. After that, I took time off to spend some time with my family and loved ones.”
Given that was Stoudamire’s path to recovery, his current location (Boise) seems ideal.
“My father lives out here, so I elected to take this route because I haven’t seen him a lot the past six years,” Stoudamire said. “I also have a little brother, sister and a step mom here as well. So I figured I could spend time with them and make my comeback to the league.”
Time with his family has helped Stoudamire keeps things in perspective, which you don’t always hear from professional athletes.
“My family is more important than basketball,” Stoudamire said. “I would never put anything in front of my family. I’m engaged and have a child coming in June.”
It wasn’t a coincidence that Stoudamire became engaged as he was working on himself.
“She (his fiancee) had a lot to do with me finding my peace,” Stoudamire confirmed. “There’s two sides to every person, the lion and the lamb. The lion is the aggressive nature that’s in all of us. The lamb is the more subtle and gentle side. I’ve had a lot of lion in me. She brings the lamb and balances me out.”
Some first round picks might scoff at the D-league, but given Stoudamire’s journey, it’s not something he takes lightly.
“Everything is perfect with the Stampede,” Stoudamire said. “I’m just appreciative for the opportunity. I’ve had a bad reputation over my career. And in the past people have developed their own story of me. But I really haven’t spoken out and I shied away from the media.”
Wildcat fans may remember that reputation. Stoudamire was reported to have mood swings and would visibly get upset on the court. Coach Lute Olson even spoke about his troubles getting Stoudamire on board, and that perception followed Stoudamire throughout the league.
“There was stuff saying I was a bad teammate, that I didn’t get along with my teammates, that I was a loner, selfish,” Stoudamire said. “It was never true. I just never spoke up and I allowed it to be created. But now I’m at a point in my life where I’m going to speak up and let people know how I’m feeling.”
Stoudamire’s patented scowl and the image it presented have always been factors in his reputation. Stoudamire took the chance to explain.
“I’ve always just followed my heart,” Stoudamire said. “I’ve never been the type to hide my feelings. I don’t put up a front. I’m more of a real person.”
Stoudamire has always been a private figure. Even at the University of Arizona, where players are given every chance to be in the spotlight, it was rare to hear from Stoudamire. That has a lot to do with his personality.
“I am a Rasta,” Stoudamire revealed. “In the media it’s projected as a negative to be a Rastafarian. You’re dirty because you grow your hair out. So you’re called unprofessional. I’ve always been a natural person. Meaning I like to grow my hair out, even my facial hair. People have always ridiculed me for that. People are going to think you’re crazy. The perception is that you have an attitude.”
“They (media) give a perception that all Rastas do is smoke weed, are lazy, and do nothing. And that’s not what Rasta is about. It’s about being simple. It’s about being appreciative about family and seeing the world as one human family.”
We had to find out Stoudamire’s favorite Reggae artists and songs.
“I like Bob Marley, Desiree, Midnight from St. Croix in the Virgin Islands,” Stoudamire said. “Some of my favorite Marley songs are ‘Sun is Shining, Running Away.’ I could give you so many. I listen to Bob Marly every day. Have for years.”
That led to talking about his time in Arizona, which Stoudamire remembers fondly.
“So many great memories,” Stoudamire recalled. “The fans were so supportive of the basketball team. They treated us like we were gods. You would like people to appreciate you for your personality but they did appreciate the heart, sweat, tears that you put it in about being passionate about what you’re trying to accomplish.”
It’s been a while, but Stoudamire is still connected to the Wildcat family.
“I talked to Lute two days ago,” Stoudamire said. “He’s happy I’m making my comeback.”
Stoudamire couldn’t help but laugh when we brought up the never ending debate about him and J.J. Redick.
“Everyone needs a story, I understand that,” Salim said. “But personally I think J.J. is a better shooter. Because I’ve never seen myself as a shooter. I see myself as a scorer that can also shoot. I can put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways. Not just shooting. There’s floaters, fade aways, one leg runners.”
Given this is the first fans are hearing from him in a long time, we asked Stoudamire what he wants fans to take away.
“With me, it’s not about me,” Stoudamire said. “I’ve never wanted any attention. And I remember the last interview I did at U of A my senior year, they asked me how I wanted the fans to remember me. I told them I don’t care about basketball. I just want people to remember that I’m a good person because that’s what its about.
“I just want to be the guy who appreciates the small and simple things in life, and doesn’t get put in the spotlight. It’s not about one individual. It’s about all of us collectively as one human family and I feel that every person in this universe serves a purpose.
“Singling people out puts hierarchy in play. When I get back to the league and they ask me to talk about myself I’ll probably refuse to do it. It’s not about me, it’s a team sport. I don’t like when guys sit up there and talk about themselves.”
Stoudamire’s thoughts about this year’s Arizona team reflect his views on life.
“I think they’ll make the tournament,” Stoudamire said. “But I won’t talk about one player. It’s a team game. If they listen to coach and stick together they’ll be successful. But as soon as one person feels they are an individual and not part of a team, then it won’t work out.”
It’s obvious that Stoudamire is a unique personality in the sports world. He’s always felt that he had a chance to be different.
“Ever since I’ve been a small child, I’ve always had the energy that I would make a major difference in this world,” Stoudamire explains. “And that I should never follow anyone except the voice in my heart.
The last five years have not been what you would expect for an All-American. For players of Stoudamire’s caliber, Europe is usually the destination if they don’t secure that second contract. But Stoudamire opted for Boise. And so far, so good.
“This is the route I wanted to go,” Stoudamire explains. “I get the energy that my situation is going to set an example for players coming up. That it’s not all about the glamour and money. It’s about the experience in life and the wisdom you get from those experiences so you can pass them on. I got seven years of basketball left in me. In two years (or less), I expect to be in the league.”