“Israel just happened to be a perfect fit,” NBA star Amar’e Stoudemire said about living in Israel.
By: Shiryn Solny/The Algemeiner
Former basketball player Amar’e Stoudemire talked about Judaism and life in Israel at Harvard University’s first Israel Summit on Sunday.
The NBA veteran, who last played professionally in 2017 for Israel’s Hapoel Jerusalem, was on stage speaking with HBO correspondent Jon Frankel when the conversation turned to the Jewish holiday of Passover, which ended on Saturday night. Stoudemire said he enjoyed eating matzah over the previous eight days but, he added, “I had to make sure I had a glass of wine after every bite man, it just drys out your mouth.” He then admitted that he was “not a big fan” of gefilte fish.
The former New York Knicks forward, and son of “Hebraic” parents, said that when he came out of high school and joined the NBA, fellow players were confused about his dedication to Judaism. He felt at first isolated from his teammates and told Frankel, “I was the only guy who would just fast on Yom Kippur. I couldn’t drink or eat anything during training camp and these guys were like, “What the heck is wrong with this guy?’ What is he doing?’”
“I think over time they realized there was more of a deeper reason for me to keep these laws even during times of training camp and during the season,” he continued. “But I just stuck with it and I think the guys are starting to realize that there is a lot of factual things that took place during that time.”
The NBA all-star said he enjoyed “every single moment” of living in Israel last year while playing for Hapoel Jerusalem. He discussed going to the Jerusalem market, the “shuk,” “almost every single day,” his favorite spots, and jokingly commented about driving in the Jewish state, “Good luck with that.”
Stoudemire’s goal was to live abroad when he retired from the NBA and “Israel just happened to be a perfect fit,” he said, especially with the offer to play for an Israeli basketball team. When asked about the level of talent in Israel, Stoudemire said, “Everyone is very competitive, they play extremely hard.”
The NBA veteran also talked about potentially having a bar mitzvah, his process of converting to Judaism now and also applying for Israeli citizenship. He added, “Even if I don’t get citizenship, I’m still going to be an advocate, a spokesperson for Israel. I’m going to always go back to visit.”