Basketball star Amar’e Stoudemire, who led the Israeli basketball team Hapoel Jerusalem to victory in national championships, announced that he would not return to play another season.
“Although I would have liked to return for another season, the team, coach and I could not find a role that I felt would allow me to meaningfully contribute in the way I have always been accustomed to play,” Stoudemire wrote in a farewell note on Instagram.
Thank you @_winner_league @thejerusalem_post @sport_5 @jerusalembasket “When I decided last summer to retire from the NBA and join Hapoel Jerusalem, my intentions were to help this team, from this holy city win my first championship with the team and the second championship in franchise history. I am extremely proud that not only did we meet that goal, but that this achievement, capped arguably the best season this team has ever had. Reaching all three local finals, of which we won two, along with a eurocup semifinals appearance, personally winning the All Star Game MVP Award 🏆 and coming to within one game of the finals, made it a truly remarkable season. I am extremely proud that not only did we meet that goal, but that this achievement, capped arguably the best season this team has ever had. It has been a great ride for myself and my family. We enjoyed the city, it’s people, the holy places 🕎 and of course Hapoel fans🗣. Although I would have liked to return for another season, the team, coach and I could not find a role that I felt would allow me to meaningfully contribute in the way I have always been accustomed to play I feel it is my time now, to return to the shareholder’s position and help make this team even better. I would like to thank Hapoel Jerusalem president. Ori Allon, and the entire Hapoel Jerusalem organization for giving me the opportunity to retire as a champion 🏆and doing it in the holiest of cities made even more special. I wish my teammates, friends and fans another great season. Yalla Hapoel!!” #kingdombusiness #shabbtshalom
Stoudemire wrote that he would stay on as a shareholder of the team, where he would “help make [the] team even better,” and thanked the “entire Hapoel Jerusalem organization for giving me the opportunity to retire as a champion.”
He called Jerusalem “the holiest of cities,” and hashtagged his post #shabbatshalom.
The year has been bumpy at times for Stoudemire, who moved to Israel with his family last summer. Stoudemire has called his experience with the team “a roller-coaster ride” and didn’t always get along with his head coach or Israeli officials. Stoudemire also faced public backlash after he made what many saw as a homophobic comment on Israeli TV. (He later apologized.) Stoudemire’s son was barred from playing on a basketball youth team because he was not an Israeli citizen.
Stoudemire retired from the NBA last summer to move to Jerusalem and join the team. It was a professional move for him, but also deeply spiritual. Stoudemire calls himself a Hebrew Israelite and views Israel as a sacred land that is his ancestral homeland. He was baptized in an Israelite church in Chicago called Israel of God, and also produced a documentary about the Hebrew Israelites of Dimona. During his year in Jerusalem, Stoudemire ramped up his Hebrew studies.
Sam Kestenbaum is a contributing editor and former staff writer for the Forward. Before this, he worked for The New York Times and newsrooms in Sana, Ramallah and Beijing. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum and on Instagram at @skestenbaum.