TEL AVIV – Former NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire was granted Israeli citizenship on Wednesday.
An official ceremony was held in honor of the occasion at the Ministry of Interior, attended by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, Hapoel Jerusalem co-owner Eyal Chomsky, and Hapoel Jerusalem general manager Guy Harel.
According to Deri, Stoudemire received citizenship as a result of his “unique contributions” to Israeli society.
“Amar’e will be Israel’s ambassador to the world,” Deri said.
Stoudemire, who posed for pictures brandishing his newly minted Israeli ID card, said he was very moved by the occasion.
“It’s a very exciting moment for me. I’m overcome with emotion right now, my love for Israel has been with me for many years, and being part of Israel is something very special,” the former Knicks player said according to the Hebrew-language Ynet news. “I would like to say thank you also to Hapoel Jerusalem for giving me the opportunity to play on the team and to help me in this process.”
Stoudemire has played basketball for Hapoel Jerusalem, a team he part-owns, since 2016.
In an interview with Breitbart News last year, Stoudemire said that converting to Judaism is the “most important thing right now.”
Converting, he said, would allow him to immerse himself in Torah studies.
“Converting gives you an opportunity to truly take time out to become a student of the Torah, a biblical student, which is what I always wanted,” he added.
His connection to Israel began when he was a young boy hearing biblical stories from his mother, he said.