Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said Monday he would grant Hapoel Jerusalem basketball player Amar’e Stoudemire temporary residency in the country.
He said the ministry would in the near future consider granting Stoudemire full citizenship due to “his impressive career” and “great contribution to Israeli basketball.”
“I’ve read and heard about the player and I believe he truly and honestly wishes to settle down in Israel and make it his home, even after he ends his career [on the court],” Deri said. “The player has left his mark on Israel and Israeli sports and so I’ve decided to give him [residency] status.”
The 36-year-old Stoudemire, a former NBA player for the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks, has been with Hapoel since 2016. With his help, Hapoel won the Israeli championship and reached the semifinals of the EuroCup tournament.
Stoudemire identifies with the Hebrew Israelites, African-Americans who believe they are connected to the biblical Israelites, and observes Jewish holidays. For years he has claimed to have Hebrew roots, studied Judaism and practiced its cultural customs.
In April of last year he said he was making those ties official by converting to the Jewish religion, telling HBO sports at an event at Harvard University that he was “in the process” of converting.
JTA contributed to this report.