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!
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • 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.