Wool suit, Stoudemire’s own. Polkadot cardigan, Saks Fifth Avenue ($198). 611 Fifth Ave., 212-753-4000. Cotton dress shirt, Ermenegildo Zegna ($285). 663 Fifth Ave., 212-421-4488. Cashmere wool necktie, Brunello Cucinelli ($220). 379 Bleecker St., 212-627-9202. Pocket square, Brooks Brothers ($30). 346 Madison Ave., 212-682-8800. Socks, Falke ($39). Saks Fifth Avenue, SEE ABOVE. Logan penny loafers, G.H. Bass ($99). Tani, 131 W. 72nd St., 212-595-1338

We live in a universe that is so enormous it is beyond our ability to comprehend. It’s been said that there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sands on our earth. That we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the depths of our oceans. We live in a universe full of mysteries, so we continually search for truth and insight. Fact.

Amar’e Stoudemire wants to know the facts. Don’t tell him what you think; tell him what you know to be factual. If you tell him there are mythological gods, that Zeus has control of the heavens or that Thor throws lightening bolts at the earth out of rage, you’d better have some physical and scientific proof. It’s no wonder he wants physical proof. Amar’e works in a physical profession where his body is his factory. His muscles and agility are his company, trademark and brand. His skills aren’t provided by wishes, hope or magic, but by hard work, mental toughness, bodily effort and self-confidence. One just needs to look at his body for evidence of all the above.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success, he explains achievement as a combination of events and time that occasionally deliver an individual to a place of great accomplishment. Ten thousand is the number of hours Gladwell believes a person must invest before mastering a personal goal. If this is the case, watch out, because Amar’e is about to reach that ten-thousandth hour. I did the math.

There are an estimated 6.96 billion people on the planet earth. America has about 312 million of them. The National Basketball Association averages only 360 to 450 players among 30 teams. The number of high school basketball players that have gone straight to the NBA (prep-to-pro) is only 41. In this elite group, you have athletes like Kobe Bryant, Brandon Jennings, Jermaine O’Neal, Tracy McGrady, Andrew Bynum, Dwight Howard, LeBron James and Amar’e Stoudemire.

In 1971, the United States Supreme Court ruled 7–2 against the NBA’s requirement that a player must wait for four years after completing high school before turning professional. This ruling allowed players to enter the NBA Draft without four years of college. Only two from this group have won the Rookie of the Year Award: LeBron James and Amar’e Stoudemire.

I was invited to do this interview and jumped at the chance because I admire Amar’e. I recently played a character who said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb inside his skin and walk around in it.” I thought it would be cool to hear Amar’e’s point of view about life.

We began our interview over the phone—not my preferred approach to meet someone, let alone do an interview. I need to see their eyes and body movements, so I can “hear” nonverbal replies to questions. “Is there anything in particular you want to talk about?” receives the reply from Amar’e, “No, man, it’s whatever you want to talk about.” Who knows what his body was saying.

Amar’e had just returned to Florida from California. He sounded exhausted. Before that he was in China at the Festival of Sport with other Nike branded athletes. One of them is a friend of mine, Paul Rodriguez, or P-Rod, as he’s known in the world of skateboarding. As a boy growing up in Florida, Amar’e was a skater. In his teens, he had to give up skateboarding when he grew in height from six feet to six-footsix. Too tall to be a skater dude, he took up another sport. “Do you know Paul?” I ask. “Yeah,” Amar’e enthusiastically replies. “He’s hot; P-Rod is cool, man."

And then the interview takes off.

MATTHEW MODINE: As a teenager, I knew I wanted to be an actor, but I didn’t think college was going to help me achieve that goal. So I moved to New York and studied with a great teacher. Sometimes I think it would have been better to have gone to college, just for maturity, and to have learned more about the profession of acting, the history of theater and the great playwrights. I didn’t, so I had to learn on the road, from experience. So I wonder, what was it like for you to go from playing high school basketball to such a huge arena as the NBA and not having that college experience in between?
Going from high school to the NBA is something that’s not an easy challenge. Again, you have to be totally prepared to make that step. The NBA is definitely a totally different game from high school, so you have to be extremely advanced in order to make that jump.

MM: How do you prepare?
You have to prepare mentally. You have to know from an accomplished standpoint that you’re ready to make that leap.

MM: So you just find that strength in your heart?
No question. You find the strength in your own heart to know that you can do it. And you have to know you can do it. You’re not being cocky. You’re not being overly conceited. You just know that you can do it. If you feel that confident about it, you’ve got a great chance to succeed.

MM: It’s a rare human being who has that confidence at such a young age. Do you wish sometimes that you had gone to college?
The only time I think about going to college is from the education standpoint. And to learn the fundamentals of the game is always good. I definitely feel I missed out on the fundamentals of the game as well as education.

MM: But you get the fundamentals from working with great coaches and playing with great players, right?
Yeah, but it takes more time. They don’t have time to teach you all the fundamentals, but they do teach you some.

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