American basketball star Amar’e Stoudemire was granted Israeli citizenship Wednesday in a ceremony at the Interior Ministry.
Stoudemire, who plays for Israeli squad Hapoel Jerusalem, has long touted his “Hebrew roots” and affinity for Israel, and in January was granted temporary residency.
“In a moving ceremony today, I granted Israeli citizenship to Hapoel Jerusalem player Amar’e Stoudemire, or Jehoshaphat, to use his Hebrew name,” Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said on Twitter.
Stoudemire is “a tremendous basketball player, a wonderful man and great ambassador of Israel and our capital Jerusalem, who has tied his fate to that of Israel’s,” he said.
“Two weeks ago I hosted the Hapoel Jerusalem team at my office and already then I told Amar’e that the next time we meet he’ll be an Israeli citizen and here we are today,” said Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, who attended the ceremony in the capital.
Stoudemire, who announced his conversion to Judaism last year, joined Hapoel in 2016 after a 14-year NBA career for the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks that included six all-star nods.
With Stoudemire’s 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, Stoudemire said he was making those ties official by converting to Judaism, telling HBO sports at an event at Harvard University that he was “in the process” of converting.