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March 24, 2021 2:13 pm

Israeli Basketball Player Omri Casspi on ‘Passing the Torch’ to NBA Athlete Deni Avdija

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Omri Casspi speaking at the 2021 NEXUS:ISRAEL Dealmakers Summit. Photo: Screenshot.

Former NBA player Omri Casspi shared words of encouragement Tuesday for his fellow Israeli basketball player and Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija.

“I love it, I couldn’t be happier. [It’s a] big pride and kind of passing the torch in a sense to Deni for him to represent Israel,” Casspi told interviewer Scott Zakheim of Landmark Ventures, at the virtual 2021 NEXUS:ISRAEL Dealmakers Summit.

Casspi, currently a forward for Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv, and Avdija were teammates on the Israeli basketball team. Avdija, 20, made history in 2020 when he became the first Israeli-born player drafted by a lottery team in the NBA. He is now just 38 games into his NBA career with the Washington Wizards, averaging around six points and four rebounds in 22 minutes per game.

The first Israeli to ever play in the NBA, Casspi was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in 2009 and played for ten years in the NBA. He also earned a championship ring from the Golden State Warriors in 2018.

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Casspi was a featured speaker at Tuesday’s NEXUS:ISRAEL summit, which was organized by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he discussed Israeli innovation and his investments in the cannabis industry. He was asked by Zakheim about other players “following in your footsteps,” and about serving as a role model for his countryman Avdija — one of the handful of Israelis who have made it to the world’s premier basketball league.

“My thought process was always work hard, work smart, be humble and good things will happen to you. And if I had a small piece in him making it to the NBA, I’m more than honored,” Casspi said. “I’m really excited for him. I talk to him a lot, obviously give him his space as well, but at the same time I wish I had someone walk me through the NBA.”

Casspi also praised his former Golden State Warriors teammate Stephen Curry, who during the 2018 season spoke highly of Casspi in interviews with reporters, praising his contributions to the team’s title success that year even as Casspi was not on its playoff roster.

Casspi shared an anecdote about Curry’s kindness toward a young Warriors fan, suffering from cancer, who had traveled from Israel to meet the team in the US.

“Steph brought him down to the floor level. After practice, Steph went out and talked to the young man and his mom. The next day we had a game, he upgraded their tickets, hosted them at the VIP family lounge. He made sure that a couple players came out and talked to the young man,” said Casspi, about the two-time MVP sharpshooter.

“All these different things really resemble who Steph is,” Casspi continued. “Unfortunately the kid passed away two or three weeks after the trip but I’m sure he had a trip of a lifetime and Steph made it possible. He’s just an amazing person.”

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