You can call him Ariel Smith now.
Chris Smith, the former Knicks point guard and J.R. Smith’s younger brother, is making a basketball comeback and is set to debut next week in the Israeli League for Ironi Nahariya after recently converting to Judaism. Smith became an Orthodox Jew — the strictest level.
Smith’s new Hebrew name is Ariel, and he credits ex-Knicks teammate Amar’e Stoudemire for stoking his Hebrew passions. Stoudemire, though he didn’t officially convert through Rabbi’s supervision like Smith, follows Jewish customs and said his mother told him he is a descendant of Hebrew-Israelites.
Smith grew up in Lakewood, N.J., and had Jewish friends growing up, attending his share of Bar Mitzvahs.
“I really felt connected, a connection to the religion,’’ Smith told The Post on Thursday, in a telephone interview, in his new hometown miles from the Lebanon border. “Growing up in Lakewood and the Jewish community aspect there, then being with the Knicks and being with Amar’e, triggered a lot of my interest. As he was bringing in Hebrew and Judaism books to the locker room, it struck my interest even more.”
Smith’s agent is Daniel Hazan, who’s New York-based and Orthodox and whose family lives in Israel. Hazan helped Smith through the complicated conversion process that began last year and includes a ceremony by the Western Wall in Jerusalem. In fact, Smith nearly became Stoudemire’s teammate for Hapoel Jerusalem last season but a deal fell through.
His brother, J.R., the ex-Knick now on the Cavaliers, is…Read More