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.


At 10/17/2007 1:53 AM, Blogger Brian said...

I want to propose another possible part of its genesis: Amare started by wanting to put "Knowledge is Power" on one arm and felt like mirroring that with some other link in the chain, wisdom measured in simple yet large unfoldings (fear leads to hatred which leads to suffering?)

But this isn't meant as an alternative to the musings above; both because it takes a lot of things going on to produce something so simple, and also because insisting on a connection where two slightly less related mantras would have fit more easily aesthetically...is itself a telling sign.

At 10/17/2007 3:45 AM, Blogger T. said...

What it tells me is that Amare as actually meditated upon an unanswerable Zen koan, and answered it.

At 10/17/2007 5:23 AM, Blogger Err Bloc Tuck said...

"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."

This is the perfect comment for the previous post. Nicely crafted, Shoals.

At 10/17/2007 7:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When asked about his new tattoo, Stoudemire (wearing his D-backs jersey…yeah, the one with his own name on the front – unless he wore it backwards for the cameras Friday night…or has this been noted already?) Stoudemire explained that basically it just means that "through individuals knowing, the collective base of knowledge is built and validated."


Still pondering:
"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."

Any differently than…? If you saw it graffito-tagged on say a bathroom urinal, wouldn't that at least factor into your sense of what it means? What if you saw it on a non-bathroom urinal, in like the Museum of Combined Things? Or on the arm of a loved one? Would your relief at finding yourself judging neither the slogan nor your loved one be as huge?

At 10/17/2007 11:07 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

I guarantee you Amare hasn't put nearly the amount of thought into it that you guys have. I'm sure his reasoning for KIK was the same as for "Black Jesus" on his neck, and along the same lines as Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction:

"I just thought it was some cold-blooded shit to say to a motherfucker..."

I don't think Duhmare even knows what it's supposed to mean.

At 10/17/2007 11:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I don't think Duhmare even knows what it's supposed to mean."

Don't ruin the fun. The convoluted/brilliant FD pseudo mythology that these guys build around basketball players is half the reason I read this site every day.

Knowing is knowledge reminds me of something out of the Tao. So I'm content to believe Amare' is a taoist and found comfort in its teachings in his arduous road to recovery.

At 10/17/2007 12:24 PM, Blogger BreadCity said...

dag, that's a big fish

At 10/17/2007 12:50 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

@daniel: you're an asshole.

At 10/17/2007 12:56 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

@bre: you're an asshole

@daniel: you're an asshole

At 10/17/2007 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amare has inadvertently and haphazardly applied this taoist simplicity. I'm sure he doesn't grasp it that way, yet anyways.

Most interesting article Ive read here in months.

At 10/17/2007 1:44 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Maybe I am, but Amare has always struck me as a poser in a lot of ways. He's the kind of guy who wears an Al Capone shirt without knowing who that is. Who does that? And for what purpose? He talks about being a dominant beast and yet he's pathetic on one side of the court, like his team. They're the most efficient offensive team in the league, they boast stoppers like Shawn Marion and Raja Bell in their starting lineup, and they STILL can't get stops in the halfcourt in the postseason. He's a microcosm of his team: veering too far into the style end of the spectrum. I know unfulfilled potential and style is exciting and tantalazing, but at what point do you start demanding a return on your investment?

As a Mavs fan, I hope his team continues to come up short. As a basketball fan, I hope he regains his 2005 glory. In the meantime, maybe he should concentrate on learning how to get set properly on defense rather than being so pretentiously boastful.

At 10/17/2007 2:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You obviously haven't been reading this site for long, Daniel. There is no such thing as veering to far into the style end of the spectrum.

And the phrase "Zen-like stupidity" is fucking brilliant.

At 10/17/2007 2:52 PM, Blogger Jacob Leland said...

I don't think it's Taoist. Note one of Shoals's options: Knowledge is active, never passive, and our collective desire to read it as a riff on Knowledge is Power. Amare, in other words, is defining a thing for what it does and not what it is, and as such? It's fucking Foucauldian.

At 10/17/2007 2:59 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...


At 10/17/2007 3:10 PM, Blogger Brian said...

Daniel -

Hollinger has shown over and over and over that Phoenix isn't "pathetic" on the defensive end - they're middle of the pack, about 14th, after adjusting for pace. Fast doesn't automatically equal awful defense - unless you're Memphis.

At 10/17/2007 3:31 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

@ anonymous: I've been reading this site since about the 06 playoffs. I don't speak for Shoals, but I think I have a rough and approximate handle on what freedarko is supposed to represent.

@ Brian:

I really don't care what Phoenix does against Charlotte or Milwaukee in February. They get bullied by good offensive teams in May. If my Mavs don't get a pass for empty regular season success, then neither should Phoenix.

At 10/17/2007 3:40 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

@ daniel:

your mavs didn't just only win empty regular season games, they cowered beneath the warriors (well everyone except for j-howard, but i'd say he's pretty freedarko. i loved his sprint down the floor to attack indiana cornrows was great. he plays with heart.)

the suns may not be the best defensive team, but they are decent. they got beat by the spurs, who are great all around team, who all just happen to hate since they're amazingly boring and filled with boring or unlikeable players. they still played their hearts out when they could (ie - when not being held out of games for blood or rash decisions). they certainly didn't cower beneath the spurs.

At 10/17/2007 4:10 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

I hate the Spurs with a passion, but that's envy at their success, not disdain because they are "boring." I don't get that "dull" meme either: If you can't appreciate Duncan's post play, Ginobili's attacking style or the precision with which they run their sets, then I can't help you. The dreadfully boring Finals shouldn't be held against them because the LeBrons failed to measure up as a worthy opponent. And the League needs a genuine heavyweight in a league full of middleweights. They've also been involved in two of the most entertaining series the League has seen in recent years, and that can't all be to the credit of the Mavs and Suns.

Dallas didn't cower against the Spurs either, and managed to actually beat them. I think that counts more in the longterm than running into a gimmick team that was constructed by Nellie for the exact purpose of beating the Mavs.

As presently constituted, Dallas might win a title, although I am extremely skeptical after the last two playoff series. Phoenix, on the other hand, will never win a title with their current group, unless Dallas takes care of the Spurs for them. They can whine bitterly about suspensions all they want, but San Antonio physically owns them, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. In that sense, I suppose Phoenix is and always will be infinitely more freedarko than Dallas. Both teams have their issues and their playoff demons to confront this year.

At 10/17/2007 4:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darkofan: Rebounding is proletarian ? Who are the NBA lumpenprotletariat ?

At 10/17/2007 4:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darkofan: Rebounding is proletarian ? Who are the NBA lumpenprotletariat ?

At 10/17/2007 6:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Golden State proved that unhinged, inspirational strategy and brash, free-wheeling stylists could rain summary judgment."

Yeah, they "proved" that all the way to the second round. Do you think that Dallas would have been happy getting eliminated in the second round? No, and they didn't "prove" shit either.


PS - Hands up bloggers, who predicts the second round for your legendary Dubs again? I predict a Baron Davis injury, and I've got a better history record to work with than you.

At 10/17/2007 6:49 PM, Blogger oliver said...

Did anyone see Simmons on that "E:60" show? His voice was so nasal-y and weird. Kind of like my own. Not what I expected at all. I mean, I didn't expect some huge macho dude, but still... weird.

I never listened to the podcasts, otherwise I would have realized this before. Anyway, I write for the internet for my job too, and my boss tried to get me to start filming videos of myself, and I was like, "Uuhhhh, No. I can only be funny on the printed page." Maybe this is the case with Simmons?

At 10/17/2007 6:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man up, Daniel. I like it.

@ everyone: You are all elitist intellectual assholes. That why we can enjoy each others company on this here site.

wv: yaocdnhm - Yao's summer home is in Vancouver.

At 10/17/2007 7:45 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

Daniel said "a gimmick team that was constructed by Nellie for the exact purpose of beating the Mavs"

I would really like an explanation for this one beyond the fact that Nellie and Cuban don't get along at all.

If your comment is true, then the Warriors took on Richardson, Baron, Monta, and anyone else who was there before Nelson came assuming that he would come on board. Additionally, Dunleavy and Murphy would have to have been traded just to bring on more players that would make trouble for the Mavs, instead of for cap relief and general roster improvement. And Nelson would have to have taken the job just because the personnel seemed like a good fit to beat the Mavs. And he would have to have purposely worked the Warriors into the 8th seed just so they could face Dallas.

My point is this: the existence of a tough matchup does not suggest that the opposing team was created simply to defeat your team. The Warriors gave Detroit lost of trouble last year too; does Nellie have it out for Flip Saunders?

Also, it's possible to appreciate something without liking it. I can appreciate the well-crafted nature of The O'Reilly Factor without liking the content of the show, and I can appreciate Duncan's post play without finding it particularly exciting.

At 10/17/2007 9:07 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Is it not possible that the trade with Indiana was done in order to kill three birds with one stone? Just as the Mavericks have put together a roster that gives San Antonio fits X's and O's-wise, the Warriors have the kind of team that frustrates and stymies Dallas. If I were to put together a team to beat the Mavs, a coach that knows their tendencies and weaknesses inside and out, an elite PG, an undersized center that can go out on the perimeter and shoot threes, as well as a bunch of athletic wings that run the floor, well, that's pretty much describing the Warriors. That trade was just as much about remaking the Warriors in Nellie's image with an eye towards beating an elite team standing in their way as it was about cap relief.

He surely couldn't have planned on a late-season run to get a playoff matchup this season, but the fact of the matter is that Dallas is one of the elite teams in the Western Conference and the Warriors or any other team that wants to make a deep run is going to run into them sooner or later...if not in 2007, then surely in 2008, 2009, etc. I'm sure he was surprised as anybody that he got a shot at them so soon.

I just dispute the general idea that the Spurs are boring. Loathsome, as personified by Bruce Bowen and all the goddamned whining and flopping they do? Absolutely. I find it hard to dismiss them on aesthetic grounds. It's much easier to do on douchebag grounds. Anyways, to each his own.

At 10/17/2007 9:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Off topic...

I ordered my League Pass today. So happy.

At 10/17/2007 10:17 PM, Blogger T. said...

Doubly off topic -

I was at the NBA China Games last night and four things lept to mind:

1. Hey! That's Ira Newble! In China! Huh.

2. I can't believe I forgot Rahard Lewis signed a max contract to go to Orlando. Isn't that supposed to be a topic of conversation, somewhere?

3. Only in China does Kenny G rate a front row seat AND a PA Annoucer call out.

4. Pre-season basketball, even all dressed up in China, tells me nothing.

At 10/18/2007 1:09 AM, Blogger MC Welk said...

The concept of "microfracture" makes me think of Deleuze's Mille Plateaus. The Pacers will rise this year like a maze of cornrows.

At 10/18/2007 1:51 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

The only thing from your comment that I take issue with is that the Warriors did all that just to beat the Mavs. To beat elite teams, sure, but I get the feeling that they cared a lot more about doing what it took to get to the next level (especially given the team's history) than getting to a point where they could beat one specific team. Nellie obviously took extra pleasure in that win, but last season was about making the playoffs.

At 10/18/2007 7:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

True that.

To say that the Warriors went to all that trouble to beat the Mavs would require us to assume that when they made the Dunny/Murph-for-SJax/TMNT trade, they knew that,
a) the Mavs would end up as the #1 seed in the West (not an unreasonable assumption, but far from guaranteed at the time of the trade)
b) the Dubs would end up with the #8 seed
c) J-Rich would stay out long enough that they wouldn't get the 7-seed (which wasn't unreasonable given their late season form) but come back soon enough that they would make the playoffs.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is, to say that the Warriors were constructed to beat the Mavs is all kinds of dumbfuckery.

At 10/18/2007 10:07 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

To say that the Warriors weren't constructed with an eye towards beating the Mavs, among other teams, is dumbfuckery. I never said that Nellie and Crew were clairvoyant enough to know they'd definitely face them in three months. I said that their moves were made with the reigning Western Conference Champs among the considerations. If you're going to make any kind of noise in the playoffs in the next 3-4 years, you'd better be able to deal with Dallas.

At 10/23/2007 7:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Suns fan, I hate how the playoffs ended... I feel cheated... but after an entire off-season of reading Dallas fans like Daniel, I feel thankful that I at least have a semi-legitimate 'goat to hang my team's failure on.

You know... as opposed to blaming Nellie's gimmicky revenge. Thing is, the way Dirk & Co. cowered and ran, I could see that happening at the hands of Utah as well. It's like Dallas wants to beat you with their reputation, and if you don't feel like outright forfeiting, and actually fight back a little, they'll gladly hand you the series on a platter. *cough* Finals

"If I were to put together a team to beat the Mavs .... an elite PG, an undersized center that can go out on the perimeter and shoot threes, as well as a bunch of athletic wings that run the floor..." well, cast R.Brewer and AK47 as athletic wings and that's pretty much describing the Jazz.

Maybe this year they'll run into D.Will, Memo & Sloan... and Daniel will have to formulate a new tin-hatted excuse for his team's weak sauce...

At 12/25/2007 12:32 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

I don't see how Dirk and his team "cowered and ran." I can make excuses for my team's failures too, but they don't involve pop psychology. They were outplayed by the Warriors, pure and simple, and Dampier's torn rotator cuff and Dirk's bone spurs didn't help. As much as I hate the Warriors, that 16-6 start with Jax back mitigates that loss a little bit. It's not like they laid down and cowered in front of the Bad News Bears. They got outworked and outplayed by a very good team.

Over in the desert, it looks like the Suns won't survive the regular season intact to get their asses handed to them by the Spurs and bite pillows again, since Kerr is making noise about breaking the team up. And no way the Jazz beat Dallas. San Antonio, Boston, Detroit, Golden State, the Desert Whiners, maybe, but not Utah.

At 12/25/2007 12:40 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

I'm also curious as to why a Suns fan would feel "cheated" by the way the playoffs ended. Where is it set in stone they would've definitely won G5 if they had the services of Amare and "Donuts" available? Amare and Boris broke a rule, why shouldn't they face the consequences of that rule when eight of their teammates adhered to it just fine? If you want to point fingers at being cheated, start with the mirror. If they can't be mindful of a rule that every coach and player has drilled into them repeatedly, what does it say about their ability to handle the pressure and intensity of a Game Seven, something a veteran group like the Spurs has done many times?

Didn't the Spurs handle the Suns just fine three other times in that series with those two in uniform? Didn't the Suns get down by 20 points on the road in an elimination game? Didn't Tim Duncan do pretty much whatever he wanted, even with Kurt Thomas doing a valiant job defending him? Didn't the Spurs control the boards and manhandle the Suns? It's playoff basketball, what the fuck did you think they were going to do, sip tea and read Ladies Home Journal at midcourt? That's not a championship-caliber team the Suns ran out there last spring, and it doesn't look like they did anything to close the gap between themselves and San Antonio in the offseason. If anything, they let the gap widen by selling off their draft picks and Kurt Thomas. Dallas' biggest hurdle is between their collective ears, they can beat any team in the Association if they're firing on all cylinders. Phoenix, on the other hand, is just physically soft, and that's a big no-no in the playoffs. The only way I see them winning a title is if somebody does their San Antonio dirty work for them.

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