(JTA) — The two Israeli television cameramen awaiting the Canadian basketball team’s arrival at the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games didn’t hint at the chaos about to envelop Amar’e Stoudemire.
The 6-foot-11 forward for the New York Knicks stepped from the chartered bus last Thursday and the cameramen departed, duly satisfied they had captured their shots.
But the party was just beginning.
Seemingly every one of the 9,000 athletes waiting to parade through Teddy Stadium here for the opening ceremony saw, touched, pointed or took pictures with Stoudemire, who appeared to revel in the attention, repeatedly rebuffing members of the Canadian delegation who offered escorts to a less hectic spot.
Some Brazilian athletes recognized Stoudemire first and asked him to pose for a picture. A step later, several Venezuelans followed suit. Then American rugby players wanted in on the action. And the Australians. The Germans. Britons. Hungarians.
A few U.S. athletes chanted “Let’s go Knicks!”
As long as it was a group photo, Stoudemire obliged, even waiting patiently as the requesting players assembled. For more than three hours the cameras clicked.
Stoudemire, who is participating in the games as an assistant coach of the Canadian basketball squad, has long believed he has Jewish roots — or as he told JTA in an exclusive interview on Thursday, Hebrew roots.
“I’m not a religious person, I’m more of a spiritual person, so I follow the rules of the Bible that coordinate with and connect with the Hebrew culture,” Stoudemire told JTA.
“You have to read the book to get an understanding. The Bible is a history book. The ultimate goal is to … start to live the actual Scriptures instead of reading about [them]. It’s the actions that count.”