In the end, the pain was too much to bear. Amar’e Stoudemire rarely shows emotion on the basketball court, and those close to him say he had not cried since he was 12, when his father died. But Stoudemire could not hold back any longer.
Article continues below ...
As he spoke Saturday at his brother Hazell’s funeral at the First Baptist Church in Lake Wales, Fla., a flood of feelings came forth.
"Big brother, oh man,” Stoudemire said as he hunched over the pulpit, just above Hazell’s closed casket, covered with a bouquet of red roses. "He was my guardian angel. He pretty much guided me all the way through, I’m proud to say."
Earlier, when Stoudemire first walked into the church, the casket was open and he lovingly reached in to touch his brother’s hand. This was a day filled with raw emotion.
"This is hurting me more than you could imagine," Stoudemire said.
Dressed in gray slacks, a light-blue shirt, gray tie, and wearing sunglasses, Stoudemire, the rock of the Knicks franchise, broke down with tears of love for his big brother Hazell, who died Monday at the age of 35.
A nine-man Knicks contingent, which included All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony, owner Jim Dolan, interim general manager Glen Grunwald, assistant GM Allan Houston and teammate Baron Davis, watched from 10 rows away, along with about 1,000 other mourners.
Understanding the pain Stoudemire was going through, the crowd broke into applause and shouts of encouragement four different times during his seven-minute tribute to his brother. Each time Stoudemire steadied himself and continued to honor his brother, who was known as "Big STAT."
The 6ft 10in (2.08m) Hazell had a world of problems, spent time in prison, was arrested 22 times since 1993, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s website, but everyone who spoke Saturday emphasized Hazell finally was getting his life in order.
Early Monday morning, Hazell was killed in a car accident when his Cadillac Escalade ran into the back of a tractor-trailer on US 27. The Cadillac was traveling at a high rate of speed, and Hazell was not wearing a seat belt, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.