President Shimon Peres and NBA star Amar’e Stoudemire met in Jerusalem on Thursday. Photos of the press conference, which highlighted the height discrepancy between the two, went viral on Facebook.
Stoudemire congratulated Peres on his imminent 90th birthday; Peres suggested that they stand back-to-back, looked laughingly up at his towering guest and remarked that the birthday “didn’t make me taller… only older.”
Peres encouraged the basketball star, who was in Jerusalem for the 2013 Maccabiah Games as the assistant coach for the Canadian basketball team, to move to Israel and join Israel’s national team.
“It is an honor to have you in Israel,” Peres said. “Since you have already achieved all the possible achievements elsewhere, I now urge you to join the Israeli National Team and be a part of our country. On behalf of the Israeli people and more importantly, on behalf of the youth of Israel, I am very pleased to have you here today,” he continued.
Stoudemire, who has Jewish roots, said his visit to Israel has been “phenomenal” and “a great honor.” He said basketball “gives me a platform to be a role model for youth” and his visit to Jerusalem allows him to “be a role model for children in Israel.”
Stoudemire visited Israel in 2010, where he spoke of his Jewish background and traditions, including Shabbat and Passover, proudly displayed his Star of David tattoo and showed off his Hebrew. He also appeared on “Shalom Sesame,” a Hebrew-English version of Sesame Street.
“I want to develop a mechanism for African-Americans to explore their Jewish roots through scripture,” he said on Thursday.
The president’s invitation to Stoudemire is not so far-fetched as one might think: last week, Stoudemire announced that he had become part-owner of the beleaguered Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team, which plays in Israel’s top division and the Eurocup but has been plagued with financial difficulty.