Dallas Mavericks Rookie Gal Mekel Is Latest Israeli Pro Basketball Star

Follows Omri Casspi to NBA

getty images

By Hillel Kuttler

Published October 29, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(JTA) — Midway through the first quarter, Omri Casspi entered the preseason game between his Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks. A minute later, the buzzer sounded summoning Mavs rookie guard Gal Mekel into the Oct. 21 contest.

Casspi took his first shot, a three-pointer that missed. On the ensuing possession, Mekel scored on a driving layup.

Order was following form: Four years ago, Casspi became the first Israeli to play in the National Basketball Association. And with the new season tipping off this week, Mekel will become the second.

A reprise will occur imminently – this time when it counts in the standings – when the Mavericks return to Houston’s Toyota Center on Friday night in the first of four regular-season meetings between the Southwest Division clubs.

There’s no telling if those games will feature the chanting, adoring, Israeli flag-waving fans who punctuated Casspi’s NBA tenure early on or whether the adulation bestowed upon an Israeli pro in America has fizzled out before Mekel can feel the love, too.

The players, both 25, say they expect the atmosphere to resemble the former. While their in-season games will likely draw plenty of Israeli media, JTA spoke exclusively last week with Casspi and Mekel.

“It’s a big thing, I think, for such a small country to have two [NBA] players. It’s something unique,” Mekel said at the Mavericks’ downtown hotel here as Casspi sat across from him. “I saw the excitement when Omri came into the league, and I’m really looking forward to experiencing that, so hopefully we’ll bring pride.”

Casspi acknowledged that he “got excited” upon seeing that Dallas was Houston’s second opponent this season.

At 6-9, Casspi towers six inches above Mekel, so they won’t be matched against each other unless there is a defensive switch. Their coaches and teammates note similar characteristics in both players – primarily their competitiveness, commitment to improve, determination on defense and team-first mentality.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.