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August 2, 2016 4:52 am

Basketball Superstar Stoudemire Signs Two-Year Deal to Play in Israel, Calls Move a ‘Spiritual Journey’

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Amare Stoudemire during his time with the New York Knicks. Photo: Keith Allison via Wikimedia Commons.

Basketball superstar Amar’e Stoudemire announced on Monday that he signed a two-year deal to play for the Israeli team Hapoel Jerusalem, ESPN reported.

Stoudemire, who has Jewish roots on his mother’s side, announced his move at a press conference held in Madison Square Garden in New York, and also in a piece posted to The Players TribuneThe 33-year-old said, “This isn’t about collecting a paycheck overseas, it’s a spiritual journey, too.”

“The Scripture speaks about Jerusalem as a holy place, and I can feel that whenever I’m in the city,” the six-time NBA All-Star added. “This is a chance for me to be a better husband and a better father, to help me lead my family into righteousness. The opportunity to play there, and grow as a player and person, is a blessing.”

In a statement released by Hapoel Jerusalem announcing the deal, Allon said the team is “thrilled to have a player of Amar’e’s caliber” join their roster, helping to solidify their place “among the top echelon of Israeli and European basketball.” Allon added, “More importantly, bringing Amar’e to Jerusalem raises the profile of the entire Israeli Basketball League, and we hope that his joining our team will lead to increased interest in our league from basketball fans around the world as well as talented international players.”

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Hapoel Jerusalem head coach Simone Pianigiani said about the 6’10” player, “What impressed me most when talking to Amar’e was his deep desire to come play for Hapoel Jerusalem…His experience will be a great asset to our team. I’m confident he will have a positive impact on our season, and I look forward to it.”

The team’s statement included remarks by Stoudemire, who said, “I am looking forward to playing for Hapoel Jerusalem and helping the team compete for titles. My family and I are excited to start a new journey in Israel, a country I have grown to love.”

As part of his contract to join the Israeli team, the former New York Knicks forward, who famously visited Israel in 2010, will sell his shares in Hapoel Jerusalem, which he bought in 2013, to president and majority owner Dr. Ori Allon. Stoudemire, who also played previously for Miami Heat basketball team, is scheduled to travel to Israel next week as part of an NBA Cares program organized by Jewish basketball player Omri Casspi. Stoudemire last week signed a contract with the New York Knicks that immediately allowed him to retire as a Knicks player.

‎”For parts of six years, Amar’e Stoudemire was the face of the New York Knicks franchise because of his excellence on the court and his dedication to our community and our fans across the world,” said Knicks General Manager Steve Mills. “When Amar’e asked us to retire as a Knick, we were honored to oblige.”

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