Amar’e Stoudemire is taking his talents to Israel.
The six-time All-Star made it official Monday at a news conference at Madison Square Garden when he signed a two-year deal to be an active player for Hapoel Jerusalem. Stoudemire, who has been a partial owner of the Jerusalem team, will sell his shares to team president and majority owner Ori Allon.
Stoudemire, who played 4 1⁄2 of his 16 NBA seasons with the Knicks, announced his retirement last week after signing a one-day contract with the Knicks so he could say he retired with the team.
Stoudemire, 33, said his decision to play in Israel is spiritual as much as professional. He has taken a great interest in the country since revealing several years ago that he has Jewish roots on his mother’s side.
“Everyone has documented my journey with the Holy Land over the past six or seven years and my interest in playing in Israel,” he said. “Now my dream has come true . . . I’m excited about the next step in my journey.”
Stoudemire’s journey has been impressive. He turned pro out of high school and was named Rookie of the Year in 2003 with the Suns. Stoudemire’s best years came in Phoenix, where he played his first eight seasons and went to the Western Conference finals three times.
When the Knicks signed him as a free agent before the 2010-11 season, it gave them instant credibility, and it was a major factor in their trade for Carmelo Anthony midway through that season.
Stoudemire isn’t the first big-name NBA player to head overseas after retiring, but he is the first to go to Israel. NBA players who have left the league and played in China include Stephon Marbury, Tracy McGrady, Metta World Peace, Gilbert Arenas and Steve Francis.