Stoudemire emphasized the importance of reading and staying in school, but put an interesting twist on popular culture, equating swagger with intelligence.
“If you want to have swag, you got to apply yourself,” he said, minutes before showing them a tattoo of the word “read” on his arm.
“You all continue to take school seriously,” he told them. “It’s not a game. It’s the real world.”
He reasoned that it was “backwards” that children in America have schools yet often do not want to attend. He cited Africa, a continent he has traveled to, as an example of a place where kids want to learn, but consistently lack the resources.
Stoudemire, who wanted to be a teacher before he started playing organized basketball at 14, spoke of making learning fun and teachers that rewarded students for achievement.
The reward theme was pervasive, as Stoudemire told the students that the boy and girl with the best grades heading into winter break would win Niketown shopping sprees. Each student at the Community Center received a black backpack with the words “knowledge is power” inscribed below Stoudemire’s signature.
The event ties with one of Stoudemire’s new business interests; he is working with Scholastic on a children’s book series.
After taking a group picture with the kids, Stoudemire spoke with reporters for 10 minutes.
He said he had been in consistent contact with his teammate Roger Mason, vice president of the players association, and remained optimistic that the lockout would end sooner than later.
“That’s a positive for us,” he said. “Other than that, I’m not sure what the deal is.”
He confirmed reports that if the lockout was prolonged the Knicks would train together at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in lieu of a regular camp with coaches and team staff. He also said that if training camp was to start on time in early October, he would be ready to practice.
This summer Stoudemire has felt some of the soreness in his back that plagued him in a first-round loss to the Celtics. He said he was “never nervous, never concerned,” about the injury, but he did need to learn how to properly rehab it.
He praised the hiring of Mike Woodson as a defensive assistant. “With the help of Mike, it’s going to be a positive for us,” he said. “But it’s up to us as players to take that commitment and implement it ourselves defensively.”
No time like the present; schools, now in session all around the country, have chalkboards.