Amar’e Stoudemire will return to the basketball court next season, and will do so in Israel unless he finds an NBA team.
The 35-year-old ex-NBA Allstar has spent the last season off court, but will return to the Hapoel Jerusalem team, which he partly owns and for which he played in the 2016/17 season, the team said Sunday.
With his help, Hapoel won the Israeli championship and reached the semifinals of the EuroCup tournament.
But it was a tumultuous season for the center, with Israeli media reporting that he had a rocky relationship with the coach, Simone Pianigiani, and that Stoudemire’s son was barred from playing on a local team because he is not an Israeli citizen. He also had to apologize for making a joke about what he would do if he had a gay teammate.
Still, many of his Israeli fans were disappointed when he announced his departure from Hapoel in September 2017.
Stoudemire’s return to the Israeli team is conditioned on him not finding an NBA squad that will take him.
“I’m very happy to have Amar’e back,” said Hapoel Jerusalem’s current coach Oded Katash, quoted by Israeli media. “It is no secret that both sides wanted to renew their collaboration.”
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Posted by Hapoel Jerusalem Basketball Club on Sunday, 1 July 2018
“There is no need to elaborate on Amar’e’s ability to contribute to Hapoel on all fronts, including in his professionalism and the leadership ability he brings both on and off the court,” he said.
“I’m sure that when he will be here, we will all benefit,” Katash added.
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 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.