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NEW YORK (CBSMiami/AP) — It’s not goodbye, just see you later.
After retiring from the NBA on July 26, Amare Stoudemire signed a two-year contract Monday to play for Israeli team Hapoel Jerusalem.
Stoudemire said the decision was very emotional for him and his family. The six-time NBA All-Star has visited Jerusalem on multiple occasions, but said getting the opportunity to play in Jerusalem will be a “spiritual journey.”
Shortly after signing a five-year, $100 million contract with the New York Knicks in the summer of 2010, Stoudemire traveled to Israel to explore what he believed might be “Hebrew roots” through his mother, Carrie. Stoudemire has a Star of David tattoo and knows multiple Hebrew phrases.
“My interests in playing in Israel, at this moment that dream has come true,” Stoudemire said. “I’m now able to play for Hapoel Jerusalem. A team that I’m looking forward to playing with.”
With the Israeli and American flag both present at Stoudemire’s news conference at Madison Square Garden, he signed his contract, put on his new team hat and showed off his new Hapoel Jerusalem jersey.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Stoudemire said. “When I was in high school I always wanted to put on my college hat to show what school I was going to and never did it. I put on an NBA hat.”
Stoudemire and his wife, Alexis, will travel to Jerusalem next week to look at schools for his four children. After returning to their Florida home for a week, the family will make the move to Jerusalem in late August for training camp — the same time when school will start back up as well.
“My wife and I always talked about living abroad and experiencing different cultures, and what better culture to experience for us than living in Jerusalem?” Stoudemire said.
This isn’t Stoudemire’s first interaction with Hapoel Jerusalem. The 6-foot-10 forward was part of an ownership group that purchased the team in 2013. As part of his new contract with Hapoel Jerusalem, he will sell his shares to majority owner Ori Allon.
“Jerusalem is a very special city as you guys know and Amar’e is a very special person, other than the fact that he is a very good basketball player,” Allon said. “I’m very excited about this and the whole city of Jerusalem is celebrating right now.”
Stoudemire has high hopes for his career in Israel.
“Just go on YouTube and look up the top 100 plays for Amare Stoudemire,” Stoudemire said. “That’s what they (the fans) are going to get.”
Hapoel Jerusalem won the 2014-15 Israeli Basketball League title and will compete in the 2016-17 EuroCup tournament.
At 33 years old, injuries in his knees had been a lingering issue, but Stoudemire said he felt great in his last NBA season with the Miami Heat, and wanted to retire from the NBA on a healthy note.
“I look at this not even as a retirement,” Stoudemire said. “I look at it as graduation because the NBA is a fraternity. It’s like a school.”
Stoudemire is a 14-year NBA veteran who was the No. 9 pick in the 2002 draft by the Suns and averaged 21.4 points. He had just led the Suns to the 2010 Western Conference finals before joining his former coach, Mike D’Antoni, in New York.
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