By Aris Barkas/ email@example.com
The idea of Amare Stoudemire playing for Hapoel Jerusalem was first mentioned when he became a part owner of the club back in 2013. However the timing of his move is perfect for the 7Days Eurocup.
While many will debate about the abilities of Amare Stoudemire and if he can make Hapoel Jerusalem a Eurocup contender – a question that can be answered only on the court – the presence of such a player is a blessing for the competition and for Euroleague CA, the Eurocup organizers, in the power struggle with FIBA.
The European context of Stoudemire’s decision is much different to what an average US basketball fan may assume. It’s highly questionable if Stoudemire alone can change the fate of a European top team, but Jerusalem is not exactly that. Hapoel Jerusalem is an ambitious club, probably the second-best in every aspect behind traditional powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel. And the Eurocup is the second-tier continental club competition, behind Euroleague, in which 16 teams will compete the upcoming season.Hapoel Jerusalem has won the Eurocup – then named ULEB Cup – back in 2004 and its first and only Israeli league title in 2015. Still its main goal remains to be part of the elite and that means winning the Eurocup in order to get a spot in the 2017-18 Euroleague season.
The only Euroleague team which Stoudemire will face is Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Israeli domestic competitions. This does not mean that things are going to be easy for him. Recently, Nate Robinson – of course not a player of Stoudemire’s caliber – tried to save the season of Hapoel Tel Aviv and did just that in a league with modest competition without miraculously turning them into title contenders.
However, Amare Stoudemire brings to Eurocup what the competition needed more than anything else at this moment. An international basketball star who can bring more than local interest. There’s no question that Amare fits this description and he can be even the key in establishing the new form of the competition, which for the first time will include only 24 teams in the upcoming season.
Eurocup and its clubs are under constant pressure from FIBA, which will organize also for the first time next season the Basketball Champions League. The general consensus is that the BCL is the third-tier club competion in Europe, but many others and of course FIBA among them, argue that the level of the competition at least in some cases is comparable to Eurocup. After all Turkish, French and Italian teams are not part of the Eurocup – which is an important win for FIBA – but on the other hand the fact that Amare Stoudemire is part of the Eurocup, makes the competition marketable even if those three countries, which does not have a local team competing.
All this of course is probably not on Amare’s mind and didn’t affect at all his decision. He is unaware of the impact his presence can have in Eurocup, even if already fans of opponent teams around Europe are saving the dates of the games against Hapoel Jerusalem. What’s he knows beyond any doubt, however, is that his European adventure will be watched by many and no matter if he makes it or breaks it, his voyage will be one of the stories to follow in the upcoming season not only in the old continent, but all around the basketball world.