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!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • 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.