Today, exactly 10 years ago, Omri Casspi alongside his friends and family in what turned out to be a nerve-wrecking night. The morning of the draft, it was rumored that the Portland Trailblazers that had the 22nd draft pick will select Omri. During the night with the David Stern calling one name after another finally the moment has arrived, and the NBA Commissioner announced that the Portland Trailblazers have selected Victor Claver.
Omri was surprised and the look on his face showed the disappointment he felt. Five long minutes between each announcement and all of a sudden Casspi's phone rang – it was his agent Stephen Heumann. His agent told him personally that in exactly one minute Sacramento will select him as the 23rd pick in the draft – a first round guaranteed contract, the dream came true.
Casspi held his phone, keeping a straight face trying to hold feelings of excitement deep inside. "Let me hear my name first and then we will talk", he told his agent, making sure that no one will know his name is about to come up next. And then the famous minute has passed and the rest was history. From Maccabi Tel Aviv to the best league in the world, Omri Casspi the first Israeli in the NBA- he made it. His first reaction was: "I can't talk, can't talk", after which he said: "It's an experience I'll remember my whole life, one of the highlights of my career".
"The decision to go to the draft was mainly because I felt that this is a dream that can come true", Casspi explained in an interview to Maccabi's official website for the 10th anniversary of that draft night. "It's going to pre-draft workouts, to feel and to get strong signals from the agent and the environment that it can happen and essentially to make the dream of anyone who's playing basketball – come true".
What's your strongest memory of that draft night?
"My strongest memory is actually the phone call I got 10 seconds before David Stern called my name, and the actual moment that my name was called as the 23rd pick made by the Sacramento Kings. It is something that I will never forget, something that has changed my life forever and started my NBA career.
As the first and now the only Israeli player in the NBA, how does it feel to have an entire nation supporting you?
"Proud, it's a great privilege to represent the country of Israel, I wear it proudly on my back and on my chest wherever needed. I feel a positive commitment and I absolutely want to do my job the best way possible, especially as a representative of Israel in the United States".
It's been 10 years since that day. Omri Casspi, a young player of Maccabi Tel Aviv, was selected with the 23rd pick in the NBA draft to become the first Israeli player in the NBA. He first played for the Sacramento kings, he then played with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston, New Orleans, Minnesota, Golden State and Memphis. So far in his 10 years in the NBA he played for seven teams and averaged 7.9PPG in 588 games – an incredible career in the best league in the world – a record that started with a 21 year old player playing for Maccabi.