While the New York Knicks had their own mass exodus from the NBA playoffs last season, Amar’e Stoudemire is now taking his own small steps closer to the Promised Land.
The Knicks power forward — with reported Hebrew roots but who wasn't raised Jewish — has applied for Israeli citizenship after becoming part owner of a Jerusalem basketball team earlier this year.
Stoudemire, who has been learning Hebrew and practicing Judaism, put in the paperwork while he was in the Jewish state for the annual Maccabiah Games, where he served as the assistant coach of the Canadian basketball squad.
“He applied, and he’s getting there now,” Stoudemire’s agent Happy Walters told New York Magazine.
Those ended earlier this week, but Stoudemire has more than religious reasons for forging closer ties with Israel.
In July, Stoudemire announced he had become a part owner in the Israeli basketball club Hapoel Jerusalem.
Stoudemire, who was signed by the Knicks in 2010 to a nearly $100 million five-year contract, has been considering joining the religion ever since he moved to New York and began telling people his wayward mother had Jewish ties.
In interviews, Stoudemire has stated that he has "no formal religion," although he practices certain Jewish rituals because “we are all Jewish. It's the original culture.”
Also, Stoudemire donned a yarmulke and a prayer shawl when he and Alexis Welch tied the knot last year.
“I’m not a religious person, I’m more of a spiritual person,” he recently told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “So I follow the rules of the Bible that coordinate with and connect with the Hebrew culture.”
The gimpy, 30-year-old Stoudemire has virtually no chance of representing the USA at the 2016 Olympics but has already received an invitation from President Shimon Peres to play for the Israeli national team.