By Bomani Jones
Special to Page 3
In uniform, Amare Stoudemire is imposing. His hands seem large enough to split-finger a medicine ball, and his heavily tattooed arms might be strong enough to throw a baseball 90 miles per hour.But while doing a demonstration of the motion-capture process used by Sony Computer Entertainment of America (SCEA), Stoudemire looked positively comical. Not even his black-on-black Air Jordan X's (sorry, but they're not available in stores) could offset how goofy he looked in a tight, ankle-length black one-piece number covered with illuminated motion sensors that resembled a suede wet suit accented with Christmas lights.
That funny getup shows how real action is used to make a player's movement in the video game as realistic as possible. The light sensors create smooth lines while the motions are immediately captured by computer. To exhibit the motion capture, Stoudemire simulated a range of moves -- the most interesting being an up-and-under post move he performed on one of the game's directors who is a foot shorter than him.
Though it all may sound embarrassing, Stoudemire took it all in stride.
"The suit's kind of tight and hot. But it's cool." Stoudemire said. "It's just a job. I didn't feel too bad about doing it."
Donning that suit was one of Stoudemire's obligations as the cover athlete for NBA '06, SCEA's new basketball title video game (in stores Oct. 4) that combines on-court action with the off-court business concerns of an NBA player. On the game's "NBA Life: Volume 1" mode, players sign with teams, are traded, hire agents, sign endorsement deals and experience other ups and downs of an NBA career. The game's focus on business is something else that works well for Stat (Stoudemire's nickname that can be found tattooed on his arm and stitched on his shoes).
In the suit, Stoudemire looked as if he had just been beamed in by Starship Enterprise, befitting of the athlete Shaquille O'Neal has called "the future of the NBA." And concerns about money and business are right up the alley of the young pro and entrepreneur who surrounds himself with "business partners" instead of friends. Overall, it almost seems that Stoudemire is exactly what the video game wants to represent.
SCEA also thinks Stoudemire's monster game will help store sales as much as the pro baller's reputation on the floor. Last season, Stat put up 26 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, and he might have been the best player in the Western Conference. His power in the lane makes him a must-see, which made him an attractive commodity to SCEA.
"Powerful dunks and highlight-reel plays really come alive in this new franchise," said Scott Rohde, SCEA's director of sports product development. "We feel Stoudemire is a perfect fit for the cover of NBA '06."
But will NBA '06 perfectly match Stoudemire's game for long? Stoudemire's power is ubiquitous and his dunks seem effortless. During the motion-capture demonstration, Stoudemire featured his jump shot for programmers. He started with no less than six straight bricks. But after taking "just a second" to get warmed up, he began draining 20-footers.
This year's game won't have that jumper. So don't expect this game to show, as Robert Brooks put it in a commercial for NFL GameDay years ago, his "breakaway speed."
"See, that's the thing. In basketball, we work on our game [even] in the offseason, and that's the same time when the next video game is coming out," Stoudemire explained. "So, when '06 comes out, it's based on my '05 game."
As expected, the league's future didn't allow his game to stagnate. He has spent his summer vacation adding perimeter skills. Since he'll be back as a power forward, that improved jumper is necessary.
Stat's face soured when he learned that his hole card had been revealed. In his offseason, he has been working on a corner 3-pointer.
"That's supposed to be a secret, man." Stoudemire joked. "I've just been working on my all-around game."
The world will see his all-around 2005-06 game when the NBA season begins. Until then, folks will have to settle for his virtual '06 game.
And there's nothing at all wrong with that.