It all started on twitter. Amare Stoudemire, the New York Knicks new power forward, and one of the NBA's biggest stars, began tweeting words in Hebrew on his personal twitter account.
A couple tweets later, one of Amare's twitter followers asked him:
"Whats up w the hebrew? Are you jewish?"
Amare's reply was simple: "Yes Indeed!!"
On July 27th, the Knicks' $100 million star flew to Israel to begin pulling up the Jewish roots from his mother's side of the family.
On the 28th, Stoudemire touched down at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel-Aviv.
The first stop on Amare's trip was Jerusalem; his first tweet from the holy city read:
"Jerusalem is a beautiful city, I'm at a cafe eating a late lunch. I'm learning Hebrew by the min. Keep up!! Shalom."
A couple days later, and after getting a better feel for Jerusalem, Stoudemire tweeted:
"I'm having so much fun here in Jerusalem. I'm with family an friends. Love to everyone. ;-) shalom"
Following visits to more scenic places such as the Dead-Sea (the lowest place on earth), and Tiberias, Stoudemire finally made his way to Tel-Aviv.
"I'm here in Tel Aviv. This city reminds me of Miami. The restaurants are great an so are the people. Thanks fans for following me. Laila tov"—(Hebrew for goodnight).
Amare said he expected to have a great time, but what he did not expect was the great number of basketball fans that live in Israel.
"Wow!! The fans here are amazing. Everyone cheers "NEW YORK KNICKS!!" "NEW YORK KNICKS!!"
The State of Israel is officially a part of Asia, however when talking about sports, you consider Israel a part of Europe. Despite the numerous amount of professional basketball teams in Israel, the country unanimously roots for one team: Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
Maccabi is one of the most prestigious basketball clubs in all of Europe. It has won five Euroleague cups (ranks third behind CSKA Moscow, and Real Madrid), and has had some great talent, such as Omri Casspi, Anthony Parker, Carlos Arroyo, Will Bynum, Sarunas Jasikevicius, and Beno Udrih put on uniforms.
Being a very close second to soccer, basketball is one of Israel's favorite sports and it was no surprise to see the Israeli's welcome Amare with such love and hospitality.
Towards the end of his trip, Amare was interviewed by Israel's most popular sports channel "SPORT-5".
The first question the interviewer asked was: "You wanted to learn more about your roots, and more about yourself, what have you learned so far?"
"I'm a history guy" Stoudemire said, "I'm trying to find my original culture, and I'm very spiritual. This trip has helped me find my original culture."
The interviewer then said "I see you wearing a Yarmulke, does that mean you'll be celebrating Shabbat and other holidays from now on?"
"Absolutely, absolutely.", Amare replied. "It's now a part of my culture, it's going to be a part of my lifestyle, and now it's going to be a part of my family's lifestyle."
"Really?" The surprised interviewer said, "You know on Passover we don't eat bread?"
"Absolutely, definitely no bread", Stoudemire replied.
A shocked interviewer then stated "On Yom Kippur, you're not going to eat?"
"Absolutely. There may be times that I have to eat, because of a basketball game, but other than that, I'm totally into it, and I feel that my spirituality is connected to it.", Amare said.
There are now three Jewish players in the NBA. First, is two-time world champion and newly signed New Jersey Nets point guard, Jordan Farmar. Second, is Sacramento Kings' sharpshooter, Omri Casspi, and last but not least, is New York Knicks All-Star, Amare Stoudemire.
It seemed only appropriate that the last question the interviewer would ask, would be regarding the person who made bigger splashes than Free Willy this summer: LeBron James.
"Being a peer, and maybe a friend of LeBron James, can you understand what he did?", the interviewer asked.
Amare thought about his answer for a second, and then simply said "I understand from the simple fact of wanting to win a championship, but there were ways where he could have made it a little more kosher."
That's all for now, .שלום ושבוע טוב