Make no mistake: the signing of Amar'e Stoudemire was tremendously exciting for me as a Knicks fan on basketball merits alone. A 25-10 presence on the interior is extremely promising, while the facile comparisons to David Lee ignore the extra attention Stoudemire has always drawn on defense. He is an upgrade, pure and simple.
But for me, the author of The Baseball Talmud, Stoudemire offers something far rarer for those of us who follow the exploits of Jewish athletes: a bona fide basketball star.
This is to take nothing away from Jordan Farmar, who is a solid player, or to ignore the potential of Omri Casspi, who averaged 10.3 points in his rookie season with Sacremento. But neither one of them comes close to the level of Stoudemire.
He immediately becomes the best Jewish player to play in the NBA since, arguably, Dolph Schayes. The elder Schayes was a tremendous rebounder and impressive scorer from 1949-1964, averaging a career line of 18.5 points and 12.1 rebounds per game. He came out of the prestigious NYU basketball program, playing mostly with the Syracuse Nationals professionally.
That's how long it has been since a star Jewish player has graced the NBA.
To have Stoudemire, a Jewish basketball star, in New York City is a treat beyond compare. His trip to Israel to embrace his Jewish roots need not be a one-time event; the Jewish community here will rush to embrace him. Scores of Jewish fans will flock to Madison Square Garden.
I thought the biggest Jewish sports story of 2010 would be the major league promotion of Ike Davis. I was wrong.