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February 9, 2021 2:05 pm

Former NBA Star Amare Stoudemire Talks to Yeshiva University Students About Judaism and Playing in Israel

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Amare Stoudemire talking to Yeshiva University students in a virtual event on Feb. 3, 2021. Photo: Screenshot.

Veteran NBA player Amare Stoudemire talked to students of Yeshiva University in New York about his career, his life as an observant Jew, and maintaining a close connection to God.

Stoudemire, who is the assistant player development coach for the Brooklyn Nets, participated in a virtual Q&A event on Feb. 3 in which he began by discussing the start of his basketball career, and his experiences playing for both the NBA and the Israel Premier League.

The 38-year-old played for Hapoel Jerusalem (which he now co-owns) in 2016 and 2017, then returned for the 2018-19 season. He played for Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2020 and led both teams to victory in the Israeli basketball championships.

Stoudemire was “looking forward” to moving back to Israel and playing again for Maccabi Tel Aviv after one season with the team, but when Steve Nash took over as head coach for the Nets in December 2020, “I figured this might be a nice opportunity to get back involved with the NBA,” he told YU students.

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The dual American-Israeli citizen recently made headlines for announcing that he will not work on Shabbat.

Talking about his path to Judaism, Stoudemire said his interest in the Jewish religion began when he was a young teen and his mother said their family should “keep the laws of Moses.” He completed his conversion to Judaism a year ago in Israel, where he studied in a yeshiva in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, and on the advice of his “rebbe” he took on the Hebrew name “Yehoshafat.” He also said that moving permanently to Israel is a possibility in the future.

When asked what aspect of Judaism resonates with him the most, he said “being able to connect with Hashem in a way that allows you to stay engulfed in that ruach, in that spirit [and] energy…being connected to Hashem in a way where my neshama [can] continue to grow.”

Going to synagogue, his favorite prayers and keeping up his Torah studies were among the many topics he addressed in the hour-long virtual event. He also talked about enjoying cholent — “if it’s made properly with a little extra spice, then we’re good to go” — but not gefilte fish, and jokingly compared playing defense on former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal to the difficulty of studying the Talmud. He said that when guarding O’Neal, “you just have to do your best. When you’re learning Gemara, you gotta do more than your best.”

Stoudemire also discussed the possibility of him coaching YU’s men’s basketball team, the Maccabees, or teaching a class at the school, saying, “There is always a future with enhancing any program, so I would not rule that out at all.”

He concluded with some words of wisdom for the students about their faith.

“The idea is always to stay strong,” he said. “There [are] going to be times when the yetzer ha’ra [evil inclination] is gonna come after you; there [are] gonna be times that maybe you’ll be a little bit confused, but the ideal is to always keep your mind focused on Hashem. Never disconnect from Hashem and you’ll always find the correct derech — the correct path. So never get discouraged, stay with it, stay strong and keep pushing forward.”

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