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Amar’e Stoudemire signs with Maccabi Tel Aviv, spurring calls of traitor by fans of his former Israeli club

(JTA) — Amar’e Stoudemire has signed to play with the defending Israeli basketball champions Maccabi Tel Aviv, stirring calls of traitor from fans of his former Israeli squad of which the one-time NBA All-Star was a part owner.

Stoudemire returns to Israel through the end of the season after playing 11 games for the Fujian Sturgeons in the Chinese Basketball Association. Maccabi Tel Aviv, a perennial power, is in first place in the Israel Premier League after winning the title the last two seasons.

The 6-10 forward played for Hapoel Jerusalem in 2016 and 2017, then returned for the 2018-19 season, during which time he was granted Israeli citizenship. He is a part owner of the club, which has a healthy rivalry with Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Along with calling Stoudemire a traitor, Hapoel fans took to social media said his signing with Maccabi was “absurd.”

“I am very humbled for the opportunity, happy to be in Israel, the place that I love,” Stoudemire said in a statement posted on Maccabi’s website. “I have a chance to play in the highest level in Europe, which is a dream come true.”

He identifies with the Hebrew Israelites, African-Americans who believe they are connected to the biblical Israelites, and observes Jewish holidays. He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last year that he is in the process of an Orthodox conversion to Judaism.

Stoudemire played for the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns among other teams in his 16-year NBA career.