Ironi Nahariya's social aspirations - tolerance and so forth - have shifted attention somewhat from their professional success, but Sunday's defeat of Maccabi Tel Aviv had everyone in town talking about basketball again.
The talked about the fantastic comeback of Sharon Sasson who wasn't wanted by the club over the summer, and about the club's coach Avi Ashkenazi. But, as for three years past, they didn't talk about Adrian Pledger.
"Amit Ben David was outstanding and so of course was Sharon Sasson, but it was Adrian who took Maccabi to pieces," says Ashkenazi. It was strange that with all the media hoopla surrounding Nahariya' defeat of Maccabi, Pledger's mobile phone remained conspicuously silent.
Nobody ever asks Pledger for a photo shoot, but on Sunday the 27 year old scored 17 points and added nine rebounds, six assists and four steals - never mind what he did to Anthony Parker.
Those figures are pretty average for Pledger, as is ruining the day of opposing stars. So why is he always in the shadows? "It's a character thing," says Tomer Steinhauer, who shared a room with Pledger last year. "He's a blue collar kind of guy."
Pledger's problem is aesthetic. He started playing basketball at age five with his father's friends and nobody taught him the fundamentals of the game. "His throw," as Ashkenazi puts it, "is crooked; and so is his penetration."
When Pledger bounces the ball he looks as if he is about to lose it. That's why he can't play as a guard and because of his height - 1.88 meters - he can't play as a forward. When he graduated from college in West Virginia in the Big East league no teams were even prepared to look his way. He signed a three-month contract in the semi-professional International Basketball League and thought about quitting the game.
But he decided to give it a chance and went to Indiana for the summer league where he met Yoram Yehieli who, a decade earlier, had brought to Israel another unappreciated player - Derick Sharp.
Yehieli did the rounds with a video of Pledger but every Israeli coach who saw his cumbersome movements took a step back. Yehieli turned to his friend Roni Altman who coached at Safed but refused to show him Pledger's video.
Altman took a chance on Pledger and in his first game he scored 25 points and added eight assists, eight rebounds and the same number of steals. But Safed pays money only if the courts intervene, and Pledger is a player for whom money is everything.
Yehieli hitched Pledger up with Avi Ashkenazi at Nahariya, a club that pays its players on time. In his first game, a second division clash of no importance, he took a knock on the elbow which swelled up.
Ashkenazi took him off the court but after a few minutes Pledger was harassing the coach to bring him back on. "Your elbow's swollen and the game's not important," Ashkenazi told the player, but Pledger insisted. Ashkenazi didn't understand why until he was told that Pledger has a clause in his contract giving him a $200 bonus for every win.
Pledger has a wife and a two-year-old child in the United States. He has a $90,000 a year salary, bonuses which he makes sure are included in his contract, and even a little publicity after his game against Maccabi, but as far as basketball goes he has no dreams. He knows that in today's game aesthetics are everything.
If you look at basketball as a television sport Pledger is an ugly duckling. "Nobody ever believed in me," he says. "They told me I was too short to play No.3 and that I don't know how to play guard. But I learned not to listen to people. I didn't expect a call from you or from any other journalist. I don't need a camera in my face. I came to work. That's what my father taught me, and that's what I'll teach my boy. "
But the detached manner in which Pledger talks about basketball is exactly the opposite of the way he plays. On court he looks like a man whose whole world is basketball. On court he's completely dedicated, off court he's a businessman, says Ashkenazi. Unlike other American ball players the NBA doesn't attract him.
Adrian Pledger is the ugly duckling who doesn't know how to shoot but who has made a community organization into a team that beats Maccabi Tel Aviv. "Basketball is just good for the day I'll sit down with my boy and tell him my memories."