Omri Casspi is a professional basketball player and the first Israeli-born player ever selected in the first round of the NBA draft.
Casspi (born June 22, 1988) was born in Holon and grew up with his family in Yavne. He began playing basketball with Hapoel Holon and made his professional debut in the 2005-6 season with Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv. After playing with Hapoel Galil Elyon during the 2006-7 season, he returned to Maccabi Tel Aviv and helped the team regain the league title in the 2008-9 season. Casspi was named to the all-league team that year and also started for the Israel national basketball team.
On June 25, 2009, Casspi became the first Israeli-born player to be selected in the NBA draft's first round when the Sacramento Kings chose him with the 23rd overall pick. When he suited up for his NBA debut on October 28, 2009, he became the first Israeli to play in the NBA. Only Oded Kattash, an Israeli who had signed a contract to play for the New York Knicks in 1999 but never appeared in a game, had come as close to playing the world's best league.
In his debut Casspi scored 15 points and in his first start - December 16, 2009 - he scored 22 points, tying the record for most points scored by any Kings player in his first start since the team moved to Sacramento in 1985.
In 2011, Casspi played in all of Sacramento's 71 games, starting 27 of them. On June 30, 2011, Sacramento traded Casspi and a future draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers. In July 2013, Yahoo! Sports reported that Casspi, a free agent, agreed to a two-year contract with the Houston Rockets. In July 2014, Casspi was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans as part of a three-team trade, but was later waived. He then returned to Sacramento prior to the 2014–15 season.
In the summer of 2015, Casspi visited Israel with seven other NBA players in a tour organized by a foundation Casspi has formed to fight the campaign to boycott Israel. Visiting with Casspi were his Sacramento Kings teammates DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, and Caron Butler, as well as Chandler Parsons of the Dallas Mavericks, Iman Shumpert of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Tyreke Evans of the New Orleans Pelicans, and Alan Anderson of the Washington Wizards. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gave the initiative his personal blessing.
In February 2017, Casspi was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. In his first and only game he broke his thrumb and was subsequently waived by the Pelicans. In March, he signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves and, a few month later, joined the Golden State Warriors. He played briefly for the Warriors until he was injured again and waived. The Warriors went on to win the NBA championship in 2018 and Casspi was given a championship ring for his contributions during the 2017-18 season.
In 2018, Casspi joined the Memphis Grizzlies and had the dubious record of being the longest active player to have never played in a playoff game. This would not be the year to break t hat streak as he injured his knee and required surgery. One again he was waived.
In 2019, Casspi returned home to Israel and rejoined Maccabi Tel Aviv.
He retired in July 2021. “Basketball has given me a lot over the years. I reached the peaks of European and world basketball that I never dreamed of,” he said in a statement, according to the Times of Israel. “I did not believe I’d make those dreams come true.”
|2005–06||Maccabi Tel Aviv||3||0||2.7||.000||.000||.500||.0||.0||.0||.0||.7||- 1.7|
The Jewish Press.
Ben Sales, “Omri Casspi, first Israeli player in NBA, retires from professional basketball,” JTA, (July 18, 2021)
Photo Credit: Jaripk