Omri Casspi is set to be the first Israeli to make it to court – the NBA court, that is. The 23rd pick in NBAs first round draft was picked up by the Sacremento Kings. Howard Beck of New York Times wrote:
When the Kings took Casspi with the 23rd pick, he became the first Israeli to secure a guaranteed contract, which will almost assuredly make him the first to play in an N.B.A. game. The celebrations began immediately on draft night.
“It was a huge festival in Israel,” said Dan Shamir, a longtime Israeli coach who worked with Casspi when Casspi was a teenager on the national team. “For many years, people were asking when Israel will have an N.B.A. player. When it actually happened, it made huge headlines.”
Basketball is only second to soccer as the nation’s most popular sport. The 21-year old already has a huge fan following from his performence on Maccabi Tel Aviv, his home team, and his faithful fans will follow his NBA career, even though it will mean waking up at 4 a.m. for games. They might be disappointed; the 6 foot 9, 225 lb forward will have to work hard with his new teammates to turn around the Kings performance last season as the team in the NBA with the worst record.
Regardless of the Kings 2009/10 season performance, Casspi’s guarenteed contract is unprecedented and a huge victory for the Israeli/Jewish community abroad and at home.