If home is where the heart is, and family is the source of the heartbeat, then it stands to reason that home is also where family is. When injury cut short Salim Stoudamire's time in the NBA, he headed home to his father's house--which just happened to be in Boise. But more than just a home, it became the place where he began his basketball career anew.
To some, basketball is just a rule-dictated game, but it can be so much more. It is a maelstrom of organized chaos--the grunt of body against body and the squeak of sneakers on hardwood--that punctuates the symphonic physicality of the sport and offsets the whisper of a shot that glides through silken netting.
It can also be an arena of prowess and a sweat-drenched war zone where tempers are frayed, passions are spent and the outcome can turn in a matter of seconds.
Stoudamire stands at the eye of the storm: a study in determination, skill and calm. He plays with the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League, but he knows what it is like to suit up night after night in the NBA.
After he graduated from the University of Arizona, Stoudamire was chosen by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2005 NBA draft. He played in 61 games for Atlanta as a rookie and 61 games the next season, but injuries led to his release from the team after his third year. After a couple of years not playing, he found a place with the Stampede. His father, Charles Stoudamire, explained how that came about.
"He's been out of action for two years," the elder Stoudamire said, "and we felt the D-League would probably be the best place for him to return to action."
Charles has called Boise home for the past six years, which was "one of the major determinates in him coming here," he said. "The pieces just fell together for Idaho. It just seemed like the best place to be."
But Salim Stoudamire is not the same person he was back when he played for Atlanta.
"In the past I was more concerned with myself because, as athletes, we are conditioned to be that way," Stoudamire said. "We are pampered, everything is just given to us, and we are applauded for what I call negative behavior."
Stoudamire's injuries allowed him to see things from a different perspective.
"I had to step outside myself because I couldn't play," he said. "I had to do introspection because I had nothing else to do ... In the past I put basketball before everything, but now I am in a state of mind where my family is first, and my close friends and loved ones are first, and basketball is just something extra."
Boise itself, and Idaho, had other allures that made it a good place for Stoudamire.
"It reminds me a lot of Portland, [Ore.]" he said. "That is where I grew up. The one thing I like about it is that it is not as segregated as Atlanta. You can go somewhere [in Atlanta] and it's all African-Americans. You go to another place and it's all Europeans. It does not seem like they do a lot of mixing. But here, everybody is cordial and open to different kinds of people."
He admitted there are a few stereotypical responses to him in Idaho, and said that some people "may look at me condescendingly, or like I'm an alien, but I understand that people are not as comfortable with themselves as they should be. I don't judge. I accept people for who they are, and all I have to offer is love and compassion."
Walking the aisles of Boise Co-op, chatting while Stoudamire shopped for supplies for his vegan diet, he revealed a love of poetry and a passion for music. And added that making it back to the NBA is not his primary focus.
"I don't have any individual goal, and it's hard for people to understand that, but I see it as an opportunity to be humbled and to be more appreciative about basketball," he said. "Ultimately, my father, my little brother and little sister live here, and I want to spend time with them. I haven't seen much of them in the past six years. But I'm a family man--without them I am nothing."
As a professional athlete, he understands that he will be cast as a role model.
"I think about it every day," he said. "I am always conscious of every decision I make because I know there is another set of eyes watching me, especially young ones."
Stoudamire's spiritual side even shows up on the basketball court. Before taking free throws, he crosses his arms over his chest in a sign of reverence. When asked what it means, he smiled and said, "You know about Egyptian mummies, right? They had their arms folded over their chests. It was a sign of resurrection."
There are a lot of expectations riding on Stoudamire's shoulders--those of fans and those of his teammates. He feels it is his responsibility to give the fans "What they came for ... you have to play with some kind of passion," he said. "If I went to a concert, and there was an artist up there that was just saying the words of a song and not displaying any passion or enthusiasm, I am not going to pick up on that energy, and it's not going to be fun to me.
"You have to show you are passionate about what you are doing and that you care."