Israeli Basketball Star Omri Casspi Picked in First Round of NBA Draft

6'9", 20-year-old Maccabi Tel Aviv forward selected 23rd overall by the Sacramento Kings.

Haaretz Service Jerry Mittleman
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Haaretz Service Jerry Mittleman

Israeli basketball star Omri Casspi took a huge step in his Israel-to-NBA saga Thursday when he became the first Israeli player ever selected in the first round of the NBA Draft - an important, but certainly not final, stage in an attempted journey to the world's preeminent professional basketball league.

The 6'9", 20-year-old Maccabi Tel Aviv forward was selected 23rd overall by the Sacramento Kings, beating projections by most draft experts, who predicted he would be chosen anywhere between the 25th and 35th selections.

Casspi is the focus of a national obsession with the idea of an Israeli making it into the NBA, in which some 20 percent of the players are foreigners.

The quest should have ended 10 years ago when Oded Katash had a two-year contract with the New York Knicks, only to lose patience and hope during the extended player lockout of 1999 and to return to Maccabi Tel Aviv before the American season could begin.

Since then Doron Shefer, Lior Eliyahu and Yotam Halperin were drafted, all in the second round.

Eliyahu and Halperin, in the end, lacked the necessary talent to make it to the big-time, and Shefer lacked the necessary luck.

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

SUBSCRIBE
Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

The Orion nebula, photographed in 2009 by the Spitzer Telescope.

What if the Big Bang Never Actually Happened?

Relatives mourn during the funeral of four teenage Palestinians from the Nijm family killed by an errant rocket in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip, August 7.

Why Palestinian Islamic Jihad Rockets Kill So Many Palestinians

בן גוריון

'Strangers in My House': Letters Expelled Palestinian Sent Ben-Gurion in 1948, Revealed

AIPAC

AIPAC vs. American Jews: The Toxic Victories of the 'pro-Israel' Lobby

Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic speaks during a press conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia in May.

‘This Is Crazy’: Israeli Embassy Memo Stirs Political Storm in the Balkans

Hamas militants take part in a military parade in Gaza.

Israel Rewards Hamas for Its Restraint During Gaza Op