After a year off the court, 35-year-old former NBA star center Amar’e Stoudemire, is returning to Hapoel Jerusalem.
Stoudemire, who signed for one season, played for Hapoel Jerusalem during the 2016–2017 season and helped it win the country’s championship and reach the EuroCup semifinals. He contributed in the playoffs, in which the team reached the Final Four, averaging 6.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. However, his leadership and easy-going character were no less of a contribution to the team's run.
Last summer Hapoel owner Uri Alon decided to release Stoudemire, who himself is a part owner of the team. Now, with Alon out of the picture, Stoudemire has returned.
Coach Oded Katash said that he was “very glad Stoudemire has come back to us. It’s no secret that both sides wanted to collaborate again." Amar’e, he said, contributes "to Hapoel on all fronts, both professional and in terms of the leadership he brings, both on the court and off. I’m sure that with him here, we’ll all benefit.”
During the season he was off, Stoudemire came to Jerusalem a few times and was warmly greeted by fans. During the year he played in Jerusalem, he became very attached to the club, and took to wearing Jewish ritual fringes and expressing Zionist sentiments. Many fans were disappointed that he didn’t continue with the team.
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Stoudemire, who played 14 seasons in the NBA, including six appearances in the All Star game, wanted to return to the world’s top league, but he did not find a team. However, he was also not slated to return to Jerusalem, an option that was off the table already in December after the team let go of a large number of foreign players who were not up to par, and Hapoel filled its quota for replacements of foreign players.
Stoudemire is reportedly still seeking a team in the NBA this summer and his return to Hapoel Jerusalem depends on his not finding a team to sign him.