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  • Gilad Azaharian

The New Representatives for Israel on the World Stage in Sports

Anytime an Israeli celebrity comes to America, they are representatives of Israel and the Jewish people. Stars in Hollywood such as Natalie Portman, Gal Gadot and Tomer Capon have been in the spotlight for a few years now. In the sports world, there have not been so many great Israeli athletes that made it into the big leagues. Omri Casspi was the first Israeli to be drafted into the NBA, being drafted 23rd overall to the Sacramento Kings in 2009. The only other Israeli to play in the NBA was Gal Mekel. This year, two Israelis are projected to be drafted into the NBA, on very different paths: Deni Avidja, and Yam Madar.

Deni Avidja is projected to go top 5 in this year's NBA draft. As combo guard-forward, he is the most promising prospect to ever come from Israel. Avdija previously played professionally for Maccabi Tel Aviv at 18 years old. He was also a member of the Israeli national championship team at the FIBA U20 European Championships in 2018, and led the team to a second victory in 2019. Israel had never won gold before 2018, but with Deni they became the second country ever to win gold back to back. What makes Deni so special is that he is extremely versatile. At 6’9 and possessing extreme skills, including great shooting and ball handling, Deni is capable of playing four out of five different positions for a basketball team. In my opinion, he is very similar to Italian star Danilo Gallinari. They are both extremely versatile players with great shooting who can fit into any team. Avdija is expected to come into the NBA and have immediate impact helping the team who selects him win games.

Less known than Deni is his Championship teammate, Yam Madar. Yam currently plays for Hapoel Tel Aviv. Yam has been dubbed by Overtime, the famous media company, as a “European Steph Curry.” Ironically, what makes Madar special is his defense. He has been called by some scouts “a top 5 defensive point guard in the world.” Yam wakes up every morning at 6 AM and serves in the army until 3 PM. After he finishes, he heads to practice. When asked if he’s nervous about going to the NBA he said, “Kids my age, they’re having bullets shot by their heads. I’m playing basketball. There is no pressure.” This quote is really all you need to hear to understand the type of person Yam Madar is. I can’t wait to see both Deni and Yam in the NBA getting buckets with all of Israel cheering them on.

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