New York Knicks power forward Amar'e Stoudemire has taken to the country of Israel with impressive passion, taking his first trip there in 2010 to look into his Hebrew roots and subsequently joining the new ownership group of Israeli basketball club Hapoel Jerusalem and helping to coach the Canadian team at this summer's Maccabiah Games. Stoudemire appears to have no apparent end-game or marketing goal here — he seems to feel a connection to Israel and wants to strengthen that bond in any way he can.
At least one important man in Israel hopes that Stoudemire will formalize that connection. In a meeting on Thursday, soon-to-be-90-year-old Israeli president Shimon Peres told Stoudemire that he hopes he can play for the Israeli national team one day. From the Associated Press:
The president of Israel has invited New York Knicks star Amare Stoudemire to play for the country's national basketball team because of his ties to Judaism.
Shimon Peres met with Stoudemire on Thursday to discuss the player's charity efforts. Stoudemire, who says he has ''Hebrew roots,'' has traveled to Israel before and Peres urged him to help the national team.
Oh, and they also took this adorable picture.
While the fast friendship between Stoudemire and Peres — who, for clarification, holds a largely ceremonial position with not nearly as much power as that of the country's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu — would present some hope that Amar'e could eventually team up for the national team, such a development is easier said than done. Stoudemire has played for Team USA in several competitions, including the 2004 Olympics and 2007 Tournament of the Americas. As our Dan Devine noted when Roy Hibbert expressed interest in obtaining a release from Team Jamaica to play for Team USA, any player who wishes to switch his national-team allegiance must have the new nation express interest in writing, have the current nation release him from his obligations, and maybe even have the two countries' basketball federations work out some sort of compensation. (In the case, that would require putting Israel in the unfamiliar position of providing financial aid to the United States.)
That's a long process, and it's possible that the injury-addled Stoudemire would be well past any shape to participate in summer national-team games effectively. In other words, Peres's offhand comment may not come to pass. Please try not to be too disappointed.
The real story here, as ever, is that Stoudemire has developed a relationship that once seemed random and bizarre into a meaningful, perhaps lifelong bond. It's now a part of his identity.
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