Knowing Is Knowledge
I. Some Words About the Author
It's almost one year to the day that we first heard the phrase "dunk contests are bourgeois." I don't know if it told us anything about the real LeBron, or the general category of basketball players. But looking back, I'd say it was almost as consequential as the Warriors playoff victory. Golden State proved that unhinged, inspirational strategy and brash, free-wheeling stylists could rain summary judgment. "Dunk contests are bourgeois" was sports culture speaking a language, or at least exhibiting a sensibility, that was closer to my everyday life.
That's tough thing to say, especially since basketball has become so central to who I am. Sports are, to a large degree, insanely foreign territory for me—inhospitable, even. While I don't think my interpretations of basketball are pure fabrication, they often involve translating sport into some alternative form. And who among us does not know what a cruel, deceitful siren translation can be?
The "dunk contests" line could've come from a FreeDarko dispatch; while I had no illusions about how incidental (even accidental) it was, it felt good to see this kind of heady, post-whatever take on sports affirmed. Of course LeBron didn't write it; it wouldn't surprise me if the ad guy who did has at some point read this site. But public figures are always a hybrid function of artifice and authenticity, to the point where the two sometimes switch places, sometimes intertwine, and always have implications for each other. What matters is that LeBron inhabited that line, it became part of his image, and Sam Cassell was once overheard using it to clown Cat Mobley's attire.
I started beaming in that same way when I heard about Amare's "Knowing Is Knowledge" tattoo. "Knowledge Is Power" deserves our respect, works well with the narrative of Stoudemire as vaguely conscious, and makes sense for someone who's lately discovered higher ed. "Knowing Is Knowledge," doesn't fit with any preconception or familiar channels of meaning. It's silly, profound, circular, forced, whimsical, absurd, painful, and somehow all the more sincere for this. What it also does it mark Amare as a weird, idiosyncratic dude, which is something I can relate to far more than anything else we've thus far tagged him as. That's part of what made Arenas my favorite for so long; underneath all the goofing, posturing and determination was something just a little bit off.
I'm not sure if this means I've hit on a universal, or just a way I can relate to certain athletes. I do know this, though—I don't judge "Knowing Is Knowledge" any differently because it's on Amare, and in some ways that's a huge relief.
II. The Matter at Hand
I wish someone would ask Amare what he thinks the phrase means, because I'm torn. There's a Zen-like stupidity to it that makes it coyly impenetrable; then again, it also makes the Heidegger fragments in my brain leap to attention. Some possible interpretations:
-Having a lot of acquaintances makes you smart
-You only gain knowledge of something through repetition.
-Knowledge is meaningless unless you use it.
-When you demonstrate a command of information, people will respect you
-Awareness of the divine mathematics means you're a god
-Only insiders are ever right
-Through individuals knowing, the collective base of knowledge is built and validated
-Knowledge is the capacity to know something, a faculty that precedes any content
-You only really know someone when you're fucking them
-Knowledge is active, never passive
-Once you learn something, it's like you've known it your whole life
-To be able to know is, in a way, to know something about knowing
-Do you think your thoughts, or do they think you?
It is the opinon of this author that from the above, we can arrive at the following basketball-related readings:
-Speak to the refs and you'll understand how they call games
-Practice allows you to internalize technique
-Surrender yourself to the system you trust
-Listen to coaches and you'll be considered a veteran
-Pregame Lord Jamar: so necessary
-William Wesley runs the league
-With each move someone makes on the court, the game's vocabulary is expanded
-There's such a thing as sixth basketball sense
-Groupies are great company on the road
-Interact with your coaches to get better
-A good player just keeps getting better
-Teach the young guys
-Do you define the game, or does the game define you?
Not surprisingly, almost all of these relate the last two years of Amare's life: The injury, the recovery, the transformation, and the newfound maturity on and off the court. Perhaps there is no one answer to this riddle, no definitive way to approach this puzzle. Instead it encompasses all these propositions, making the ultimate summation of Amare Stoudemire 2007. To many, it means nothing. But to Stoudemire, and those forever seeking to understand him, it's a nugget so densely-packed that achieve isotope-like properties, a maelstrom of meaning so compressed that it's incomprehensible.