JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Interior Ministry granted former NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire residency rights, another step toward citizenship.
“In the near future, the possibility of granting the player citizenship will be examined,” the ministry said in a statement on Monday.
Stoudemire has been playing professional basketball for the Hapoel Jerusalem team since 2016, though he left briefly in mid-2017 to try for a return to the NBA.
He identifies with the Hebrew Israelites, African-Americans who believe they are connected to the biblical Israelites, and observes Jewish holidays. He told HBO sports reporter Jon Frankel at an event at Harvard University in April 2018 that he is “in the process” of converting to Judaism.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said that he made the decision based on Stoudemire’s seriousness about Judaism and living in Israel even after his basketball career ends, and because he is “making a mark in Israel and in Israeli sports.”
Not having citizenship means Stoudemire is eligible to play for the team in the Union of European Football Associations’ Champions League but not in the Israeli League.
Stoudemire played for the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns among other teams in a 16-year NBA career. He is a part owner of Hapoel, which he had to suspend in order to play.