JERUSALEM (AFP) – Former NBA star Amar’e Stoudemire, who became the most famous name to join Israel’s basketball league when he signed with Hapoel Jerusalem last year, will not play for the team next season, the team said Sunday.
The 34-year-old will return to his status as a minority owner of the team, Jerusalem spokesman David Bassan told AFP. He had sold his stake ahead of last season to be eligible to play.
Jerusalem won Israel’s premier league last season, with Stoudemire averaging 9.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.
Stoudemire addressed his decision in an Instagram post.
“It has been a great ride for myself and my family. We enjoyed the city, its people, the holy places and of course Hapoel fans,” he said.
“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.”
Stoudemire came to Jerusalem after an NBA career that began with great promise was cut short by injuries, particularly to his knees.
He described his decision as a spiritual quest, with the former New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns star identifying as a Hebrew Israelite, African-Americans who believe they descended from the ancient tribes of Israel.
Stoudemire repeatedly expressed his excitement at being in Jerusalem, though he faced criticism earlier this year and apologised following a backlash over his comments he would avoid a gay teammate.