American basketball star Amar’e Stoudemire said he decided to leave the NBA to play for Hapoel Jerusalem for ideological rather than financial reasons.
“I turned down a lot of money in the NBA to play for Israel, so it’s not about the money at all, it’s about winning championships,” he said in an interview published Monday on the Walla website.
Stoudemire said he hopes to help encourage and develop basketball in Israel both by playing in the country and by encouraging other foreign players to do so.
“Hopefully it opens the doors for others to come here,” he said.
The children of Israel, is coming back to Israel !! Next Chapter.
The newest Hapoel star arrived in Israel on Friday as part of a group of NBA players and celebrities brought by Israeli basketball player Omri Casspi.
Stoudemire also addressed Israeli media reports about his ability to play on Israel’s national team, telling Walla that, “If I receive [Israeli] citizenship, I’ll play on the national team.”
In 2013, then-president Shimon Peres invited Stoudemire to play for the Israeli team because of his apparent ties to Judaism. Stoudemire, who says he has “Hebrew roots,” has previously traveled to Israel and even coached the Canadian basketball team at the Maccabiah Games, also known as “the Jewish Olympics.”
In 2010, when asked if there was a chance he was Jewish, Stoudemire said: “I think through history, I think we all are.” According to Army Radio, the player recently discovered that his mother is Jewish.
On Friday, immediately after arriving in Israel, Stoudemire and his wife headed to Dimona, where he addressed the African Hebrew community.
“My wife and I love to come to Israel to touch up on our Hebraic history,” he said.