NBA Player Omri Casspi Born Omri Casspi at a 2017 Golden State Warriors press conference. Photo: Public Domain

June 22, 1989

Basketball player Omri Casspi, the first Israeli to play in the National Basketball Association, is born in Holon to parents of Moroccan heritage.

He grows up in Yavne and plays for Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv’s youth team from age 13 to 17. A small forward who also can play inside, he makes his professional debut for Maccabi Tel Aviv during the 2005-06 season. He wins the Israeli Premier League’s Sixth Man of the Year award for the 2007-08 season.

The Sacramento Kings draft Casspi 23rd overall in 2009, making him the first NBA first-round draft pick from Israel and setting off celebrations across the country. He scores 15 points for the Kings against the Oklahoma City Thunder in his debut game Oct. 15, 2009. Over 10 seasons with the Kings, Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies, he averages 7.9 points and 4.0 rebounds across 588 games. His best season is with the Kings in 2015-16, when he averages 11.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists while playing more than 27 minutes per game. He never appears in an NBA playoff game.

Casspi returns to Israel to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the 2019-20 season under a three-year contract. He also plays for the Israeli national team, and he is one of seven torch lighters at the opening of the 2017 Maccabiah Games. His Omri Casspi Foundation brings athletes and other celebrities to Israel each summer to show them the reality of his nation.