It takes no shortage of chutzpah for a relatively unknown Tel Aviv-based author to believe he can teach Americans a thing or two about basketball writing, let alone enlist an NBA superstar to promote his children’s series about their hit homegrown sport.
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But Amir Doron, the creator of the “Dream Ten” series, is anything but lacking in this quintessential Israeli trait. And his tenacity has paid off: Last month, Stephen Curry, the star guard of the Golden State Warriors, signed on to become the “brand ambassador” in North America for this popular Israeli children’s book series, which follows a group of young underdogs who get rejected from their own local club basketball team and proceed to form their own.
Curry set a record for three-pointers made in a single NBA season in 2012-13 and became the first player in the professional basketball league’s history with 250 threes and 500 assists in a single season. The star shooter of the California Bay Area team, who was a First-Team All-Rookie selection in 2009 and the recipient of the 2011 NBA Sportsmanship Award, will be promoting the digital book series to young audiences in North America through social media and will even be donning the “Dream Ten” uniform for publicity purposes.
“He’s probably the only NBA player who will be wearing the uniforms of two different teams this season,” jokes Doron, who uses the penname A.D. Erving for the English-language series (a combination of his initials and the last name of his long-time idol, former basketball superstar Julius Erving).
The Israeli series has already sold 60,000 hard copies, according to Doron, who self-publishes the books. “I had a few offers from publishing companies, but I decided I’d rather do it on my own,” he says.
After a friend convinced him that the series would be a sure hit in the United States, Doron went and found a translator.
His original plan was to find a publisher in the United States who could promote and distribute the series, but following several fruitless rounds of talks, he decided that a better strategy would be to recruit a well-known basketball star who could engage young readers through social media.
Doron, a former basketball player himself, reached out to Curry through an Israeli friend who lives in the United States and works as an agent for several NBA players. “My friend contacted Curry’s agent, who gave him the first book in the series, and after a few days, he got back to us and said, ‘I want to do it,’” recounts Doron.
Doron specifically sought out Curry, he says, because he felt the young star would identify personally with the narrative of the “Dream Ten,” having experienced his own Cinderella moments.
“He was relatively short for a basketball player, and no one thought much of him initially,” notes Doron. “But then in 2008 he took Davidson, a college team nobody had heard of, and brought them to the Elite 8. Besides that, his father, Dell Curry, was a great player, and so is the father of one of the main characters in the series.”
Under the terms of the contract, Curry will become a partner in the project, but Doron refused to release any further details about the deal, including what kind of cut he would be receiving for his services.
Originally written in Hebrew for young Israeli audiences (under the title “Ha’asiriya Hapotachat”), “Dream Ten” is slated to become a 10-book series, each installment focusing on one particular team member.
The Hebrew series thus far includes four books, two of which have been translated into English. The translated version of the first book in the series, “David’s Miracle,” is already available for sale on Amazon, and the second one, Doron says, is to be released within the next few months. The plan is to eventually publish the entire series in English in hard copies as well.
“David’s Miracle” focuses on 12-year-old David “the Brain” Malone, who, at 4 feet and 6 inches, is the shortest boy on the team. But what he lacks in height he makes up for in speed and agility. In order to appeal to American audiences, Doron had to reconfigure his main characters, providing them not only with American-sounding names, like David, Joe and Chris, but also more American-sounding stories. Tony, for example, is the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, while Alex’s parents come from Russia. Carlos is Puerto Rican, and Julius, Larry and Marcus are black. And then there’s Zach, an Orthodox Jew whose trademark is his kippa.
In the Israeli series, which is a few years ahead, the main characters not only face challenges on but also off the court – deportation threats, parental divorce and illness, to name a few.
“The idea is to get kids who are hooked on basketball but don’t like to read to start reading and to get kids who like reading but aren’t really connected to sports to start taking an interest in them,” says Doron.
The idea for the series, which targets 7- to 14-year-olds, was conceived during the Second Lebanon War, when friends from the north fled for safety to Doron’s Tel Aviv apartment. At the time, he was running a publishing house that specialized in sports books for children (and which eventually folded).
“We got to talking about books, and my friend had the idea that I should start writing my own children’s books,” recalls Doron, 39, who once played professional basketball for Bnei Herzliya and later trained young Israeli amateur players. “Many of the ideas for the stories in the series came from my interactions with these kids,” he says.
With the help of a grant from the Israel Film Fund, Doron recently completed a script to turn the series into a film – a project he’s pursuing in partnership with veteran director Eitan Green.
Doron himself got hooked on basketball as a 7-year-old, when thanks to his father’s connections as a sports editor at Maariv, he got to meet and have his photograph taken with Julius “Dr. J” Erving.
“From that moment, I was smitten,” he says.
Married with two young children, Doron writes during odd hours, when he’s not working at his day job producing medical and scientific journals and publications. “The first book took me a year and a half to write, but since then I’ve gotten much faster,” he says.
He’s never met Curry personally, but hopes to do so in a few months when he celebrates his 40th birthday. “I’ve already become a fan of the Warriors and my plan is to treat myself for the big birthday to one of their games and finally get to meet him face to face,” he says.