As it was reported before, NBA player Amar’e Stoudemire has retired from the league after playing there for 14 seasons.
Following his retirement, Stoudemire, surprised some fans, when he decided to go to Israel, hoping to continue his basketball career there.
According to Israeli Haaretz, Stoudemire “landed in Israel for a voyage of discovery after learning he has Jewish roots. Stoudemire’s agent said the New York Knicks forward was planning a weeklong visit to learn about the country and explore its religions.”
“”Jerusalem is a beautiful city, I’m at a cafe eating a late lunch. I’m learning Hebrew by the min. Keep up !! Shalom,” said a message on Stoudemire’s Twitter some time later.
News of Stoudemire’s trip quickly had Israeli basketball fans abuzz with speculation that they might one day see him playing alongside another Jewish NBA star, Omri Casspi, on Israel’s national team.
According to Forward.com, Stoudemire said that he hoped his coming to Israel and playing professionally might “spread the word” and “give another light” to the “Hebraic culture” and way of life as understood by Hebrew Israelites.
“Building on our Hebraic culture and being able to spread the words and getting our brothers and sisters to understand who they are from a nationality standpoint is very, very important to me,” Stoudemire said.
“Now that I’m playing in Jerusalem that gives another light on the situation, and allows us to reconnect to the Land of Israel.”
Meanwhile, Stoudemire is no stranger to Israel. In 2010, he traveled to the country in a much-publicized tour, telling reporters he was exploring his “Hebrew roots.” Some American Jews and Israelis were confused by his interest, speculating whether he had a Jewish mother or was interested in religious conversion.
Stoudemire reportedly has ties to various Hebrew Israelite groups.
Hebrew Israelites are people of color, mostly African American, who proclaim ancestral ties to the biblical Israelites. There are dozens of groups that identify as such; the major groups are around a century old and were inspired, in part, by the messages of liberation and nationalism of Marcus Garvey.
According to Haaretz, Stoudemire isn’t joking about Israel, and has been looking to get an Israeli citizenship.
Stoudemire’s agent, Happy Walters, told New York magazine that the Knicks’ power forward is in the process of becoming an Israeli, Haaretz reported.
In July, he announced he had become a part owner in the Israeli basketball club Hapoel Jerusalem. And in an exclusive interview in Jerusalem last month with JTA, Stoudemire said he is in regular dialogue with New York rabbis, studies Torah and observes the High Holidays.
“I’m not a religious person, I’m more of a spiritual person, so I follow the rules of the Bible that coordinate with and connect with the Hebrew culture,” Stoudemire told JTA.
Stoudemire played 14 seasons in the NBA, for Phoenix Suns, NY Knicks, Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat. A 6-time NBA All-Star, Stoudemire holds career averages of 18.9 ppg and 7.8 rpg in 31 mpg. He played in total of 846 NBA regular season games (started in 696).
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