History In Sport

Jehoshaphat's Vision: The Top Basketball Player Who Converted 41 Years Old

He walks with Tzitzit Tekhelet, makes wine and meat, studies Shabbat laws and dreams of a Jewish woman, Amar'e Stoudemire, the top basketball player who converted celebrates his 41st birthday.

Amar'e Carsares Jehoshaphat Stoudemire (Photo: Flash90)

Deni Avdija is not only the top Israeli in the NBA today but also the top Jewish basketball player, at least until Ryan Turell reaches the best league in the world. But there is a player who spent 14 years in the NBA, earned a place in the top five of the league's season, and five times in the second five, scoring almost 20 points per game throughout his extensive career, and this player Amar'e Stoudemire is 'one of ours' since he converted in 2020.

Amar'e Carsares Jehoshaphat Stoudemire was born on November 16, 1982, in Lake Wales, Florida, in the United States without the name Jehoshaphat. When he was 12 years old, his father died, and his mother was arrested many times, the difficult situation caused the young Amar'e to start wandering between schools, moving between no less than six schools during high school when in the end, he was able to finish his studies at Cypress Creek High School in Orlando.

He started playing basketball only at the age of 14, two years after his father's death. Although he only played two years in the high school leagues, he excelled especially when he played as a power forward and center and even won a title. After high school, he thought of studying at the University of Memphis, but finally gave up studying at the university due to his family's difficult financial situation, Stoudemire signed up for the draft to get a professional contract, and help his family with the money he would earn.

Amar'e Stoudemire was drafted

The dream came true when he was selected ninth in the draft by the Phoenix Suns, already in the first season he achieved double-digit averages and almost had a double-double. with an average of 13.5 points, and 8.8 rebounds. In December of that year, he scored 38 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Suns with him made it to the playoffs but were eliminated by the Spurs. The high averages this season earned him the Rookie of the Year award (the most outstanding among first-year players in the NBA).

Stoudemire continued his meteoric rise with 20.6 points and 9 rebounds in the 2003/04 season. At the Athens Olympics, he was called to the United States team, which disappointed when it won the bronze medal and lost three times during the tournament, more than all the losses in the history of the Americans in the Olympics, when Stoudemire rarely played.

Steve Nash (Photo: Shutterstock)

The following season, together with Steve Nash, he brought the team to first place in the league, with 62 wins against 20 losses when Stoudemire scored an average of 26 points along with an average of 8.9 rebounds. His game high that season, was 50 points in a game against the Portland Trail Blazers. In the playoffs, the Suns suffered a disappointment when they lost in five games against Portland.

Double-double in the playoffs

The rise continued when in the playoffs Stoudemire averaged a "double-double" with 29.9 points and 10.7 rebounds, but the team again lost a five-game series and was eliminated from the playoffs. Stoudemire finished that season with a selection to the second five of the season in the NBA. At the end of that season, he injured his knee cartilage, which led to his removal from the national team for the World Championship, despite trial repetitions during the season, he was able to return to form only in the following season, in the 2006/07 season, he returned to form with 20.4 points and 9.6 rebounds.

He became the team's leading player in the 2007 American Championship, averaging 11.1 points and 4.7 rebounds, which helped the team win the gold medal. He continued to be among the most prominent players in the league and starred for the Phoenix until 2010, when after eight years with the team he moved to the New York Knicks. He was not called to the squad for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 due to fear that he would not be able to withstand the physical load after the long season in light of the injuries he had.

The Old City of Jerusalem (Photo: Shutterstock)

In 2010, after discovering that he had Jewish roots, he visited Israel, where he told the Jerusalem Post: "The Holy Land has always been high on the list of places to visit, and when this opportunity arose, I wasn't going to turn it down any longer," he added that he So excited to be here, to learn Hebrew, understand its heritage and see all the important historical sites.

Amar'e Stoudemire: "Israel is a country I fell in love with"

He said that he does not consider himself a religious person, but a deeply spiritual person and added: "I am proud to be Hebrew and to embrace my Jewish background".

In his first season with the Knicks, he also averaged 25.3 points, but then at the age of 30, his averages started to drop. He played until the middle of the 2014/15 season in the Knicks, then he moved in the middle of the season to the Dallas Mavericks, where he played for half a year. The 2015/16 season was his last, in the 'best league in the world' when he signed with the Miami Heat.

In 2013, he bought 5% of the ownership of Hapoel Jerusalem, and on August 1, 2016, at the beginning of the 2016/17 season, he left the best league in the world, and signed with the Reds from the capital of Israel, after selling the percentage of the management when he signed: "Excited to come to play in Israel in the country I fell in love with. I look forward to helping the team win titles." He added: "It's a dream come true. This is an emotional decision. I will move to Jerusalem. I will both enjoy the spirituality and the continuation of a professional career. I want to help the club both in winning local titles and in the Eurocup."

Amar'e Stoudemire with the championship plate (Photo: Shutterstock)

The new Jerusalemite kept his promise when he led the team to win the second championship in its history at the end of that season and then announced his retirement from basketball. Stoudemire apparently couldn't stand the longing and at the beginning of the 2018/19 season, he returned to play in red. In the same year, he received Israeli citizenship. In January 2020, he surprised everyone when he signed with the big rival from Tel Aviv, where he won the championship in 2019/20 when he won the MVP of the Final Four.

And his name was called in Israel: Jehoshaphat ben Avraham

In 2020, after a long period of a conversion process that included studying in a Kollel, he converted in a private ultra-orthodox rabbinic court of Rabbi Nissim Karelitz in Bnei Brak, and chose for himself the Hebrew name: "Yohshaphat ben Avraham". In the same year, he began his coaching career as an assistant coach at the Brooklyn Nets, with the new coach being his friend from the Suns, Steve Nash.

Amar'e Stoudemire receives Israeli citizenship (Photo: Hadas Parush, Flash90.)

In 2022, in an interview he gave to YNET, he said that he had established a meat farm for which he wanted to obtain a kosher certificate. He also established a kosher wine collection with names such as: 'Jerusalem', 'Galil' and 'Kfar Nahum'. He wears a long Tzitzit Tekhelet, which he said brings him closer to God and learns Shabbat laws, about which he said: "It helps me be a better person, gives me organization in life. The Torah also allows me to improve my ability to think and study."

He is also looking to marry an Israeli Jew: "That's my plan. I'm really looking for someone who can complete me, I think an Israeli girl would be the best for me because I feel she will understand me better, understand who I am and my Judaism." Do you know someone suitable?.

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