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Amar'e Stoudemire: "LeBron will lead Cleveland to the 2017 NBA finals"

The ex-Suns, Knicks, Mavericks and Heat star speaks with Sportskeeda about the 2017 NBA season, his career, and his new challenges in Israel

Amar'e Stoudemire
Stoudemire during his time with Miami Heat

Amar'e Stoudemire decided to leave the NBA in 2016 to play overseas. The 33-year-old American, with Hebrew roots, plays in Israel this year, for Hapoel Jerusalem, a team he co-owns. However, the NBA is constantly on his mind and he spoke to Sportskeeda about his successful years there and his unfulfillled desire of winning the championship.

The dynamic player also praised LeBron James for his achievements at Cleveland Cavaliers and expects more great things to come from the champion.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

After a career of 14 years, you decided to retire from the NBA at the age of 33. Why did you make that decision when there are players that continue to play until their late 30s – some even into their 40s?

I wanted to retire in good health. My body feels great. I also wanted to extend my career by playing for the national team.

This year you play for Hapoel Jerusalem, a team you co-own. What is your vision for the club?

For us, we will try to win as many games as possible. We'll try to compete. We'll try to be a high-level team and take one game at a time, one year at a time.

Maccabi Tel Aviv are considered to be the most successful team in Israel, having been crowned European Champions on several occasions. They have also produced athletes and coaches who were in the NBA, such as Anthony Parker and David Blatt. Are Maccabi Tel Aviv the ideal that Hapoel Jerusalem is trying to aspire to?

In Hapoel, we have our own brand. We have a huge fan base all around the world because there are so many fans connected to Jerusalem. Maccabi Tel Aviv have been a remarkable franchise so far and we are looking to build on what we started here in Jerusalem.

You have been in search of your Jewish roots for years. Is your involvement in the Israeli Basketball League and Hapoel Jerusalem one of the results of that? What do you want to discover there about your origin and basketball?

Basketball is something I love to do. It is the passion that I have as long as I can remember. I am here to play basketball. I am ready to build a competitive team. As far as my Hebrew roots, it is always something I study here in Jerusalem. It is a passion of mine. So I will always continue my studies.

Phoenix Suns had been one of the best teams in the last decade in the NBA and had several great players on their roster. Why, in your opinion, could Phoenix Suns not win an NBA championship even though many thought they deserved it?

We had an incredible run. There are so many great teams that haven't won the championship. What we've been able to do is change the game of basketball. We changed the face of basketball.

Basketball is now being played in kind of a small ball type of atmosphere, something which we started in Phoenix. So in Phoenix, we were the trendsetters and the pioneers in changing the game of basketball.

You have played for Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat. If you could play for one more team in the NBA, which one would you pick?

If I could play for one more team I would probably play for either Phoenix or New York, which are my favorite teams.

You were one of the best players in the NBA, having been included in the All-NBA First and Second Team multiple times. You have also had success as a rookie. Individually you have many titles. But do you regret that you didn't win the NBA championship?

I never regret anything for the most part of my career. I have been able to accomplish a lot in my NBA career. There are so many awards. Winning a championship obviously would be the icing on the cake, but I look at my career as a success. I have been able to play for 14 healthy years.

You have been a member of the USA national team and won the Olympic Games bronze medals in 2004 and the Americas Championship in 2007. The last few years, USA have been unbeatable. Why do you think the USA are so good in basketball compared to all the other countries in the world?

I think that it has to do with the fact that all the top players decided to play for the Team USA. There was a stretch when the top players didn't play. From the time that all the great players started to play, since 2006 or 2008, the team started to pull away.

After LeBron James won the NBA championship with Miami Heat in 2012, he led them to another win in 2013 as well. Do you think that is a sign that Cleveland Cavaliers will win this year's title too, after winning the 2016 title with LeBron James? Or do you see another team being able to lift the trophy?

Dynasty is a hard thing to come by. It is hard to win three championships in a row or two in a row. There are teams that become more and more competitive each year, so there is no guarantee. But I think LeBron is doing a phenomenal job with his team in Cleveland and I think they are going to be in the finals again this year.

Stephen Curry had a major breakthrough a couple of years ago and he led Golden State Warriors to the title in 2014/15. From the current NBA players which one do you regard as the one that can be the next best thing of the NBA?

I think Paul George is a player that probably has the potential to become a complete player. He has shown improvement throughout the years and he is one of the players that is going to break through for sure.

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