Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall was teeming at dusk on Sunday with people out enjoying the cool summer evening. Surprisingly, not many of them seemed to notice an extremely tall celebrity among them. It was New York Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire doing some souvenir shopping with his wife, Alexis, and some of their kids.
Stoudemire is in Israel for the Maccabiah Games, which opened July 18. As assistant coach for the Canadian basketball team, he is based in Jerusalem, where the various basketball venues are located. This coaching gig has afforded Stoudemire the chance to return to Israel following his first visit to the Holy Land in 2010. That trip was sparked by his interest in learning about and connecting to his Jewish heritage on his mother’s side.
Last Thursday, prior to the Maccabiah Games opening ceremony, Israel’s President Shimon Peres invited Stoudemire to play for Israel’s national basketball team. The meeting also served as a photo op to show off the comical height difference between the 90-year-old Peres and the 6’11” Knicks player. In June, Stoudemire expressed interest not in playing for Israel, but rather in buying a stake in the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team.
On Ben Yehuda Street, Stoudemire, wearing his bright red Canadian team shirt and large knit kippah, entered a Judaica gift shop with his family. This reporter went up to him and asked him if he’d care to comment on the shopping in Jerusalem. Stoudemire politely declined to answer by saying, “No interviews now.”
It appeared that the Knicks player did not purchase anything at that particular shop, but the large shofars (rams’ horns) on display seem to have caught his eye. Before leaving the store, he picked one up and tried to blow it, but no sound came out. It looks like he’ll need some practice—and not only on the court as he recovers from the knee injury that caused him to miss much of the 2012-‘13 NBA season.