Omri Casspi – The Making of a Successful Athlete

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Pre Reading Questions:

  • What do you know about Omri Casspi?
  • How do you think he made it to the NBA?
  • What are the ingredients for athletic success?

Omri Casspi – The Making of a Successful Athlete

What does it take to make a champion? What are the most important ingredients for athletic success? Good athletic genes aren’t enough. Many athletes are naturally athletic, yet do not have the motivation to become successful. These athletes never live up to expectations and many regret they didn’t have the work ethic to match their physical abilities.

The greatest factor that leads to success is the amount of time athletes put into their training while also setting realistic, yet challenging goals toward which they can strive. Having the support of family and coaches is also important. When the support is given, it remains the athlete’s job to work hard, pay attention to their coaches, and take full advantage of the opportunities they are given. Omri Casspi, an Israeli athlete who plays in the NBA, is one of those players who focused not only on his athletic abilities, but also on his motivation, work ethic, and support system. This is the story of how a man put his heart and soul into accomplishing his dream of playing professional basketball.

His background

Omri Casspi was born on June 22, 1988, in Holon, and grew up in Yavne. Starting from a young age, Casspi loved playing basketball and was involved in numerous youth leagues around the country. When he was a child, Casspi played for Elizur Yavne and Maccabi Rishon LeZion, before switching to the Maccabi Tel Aviv youth team when he was 13-years-old. In 2005, he accomplished an early career milestone; he won the State Youth Championship.

How he Trained

Casspi would put in numerous hours and channel all his energy into becoming an outstanding player and in 2005-2006, his efforts paid off. The 2.06 meter star was only 17 when he joined Maccabi Tel Aviv for the 2005-2006 season.

While playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv, he proved to be a powerhouse in the league. When he started playing for Maccabi, he was averaging 4.2 points a game. While he was briefly loaned to Hapoel Galil Elyon for the 2006-2007 season, he returned to Maccabi for the 07-08 season and by 2009, he was averaging 12.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. His long years of intensive training (during and after official practice times) paid off. Like most professional athletes, Omri’s training was both mental and physical. He made sure he improved his skills, worked on his free throws, and upped his strength training. He also found a way to train his brain and become an even better player by shutting out any negativity inside his head, focusing on his ultimate dream (playing basketball for one of the best leagues in the world), and setting reasonable goals he could work towards.

When he was recruited for NBA

Not long after his record season, Casspi was selected for the NBA’s first round, making him the 23rd overall pick for the Sacramento Kings. As he stepped onto the court in 2009, he became the very first Israeli to play in the National Basketball League. Casspi played in the league for six years and three different teams: The Sacramento Kings, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Houston Rockets. Casspi’s time in Cleveland was tough but he worked through the hard times and focused on what was really important: “I felt like I didn’t want to give up on my dreams because of me and a coach or me having a bad season. Sometimes I went through tough times, and the support has always been there,” he said.

How he maintained his success

Anyone could study Casspi’s career and realize his time in Cleveland wasn’t a career high for the player. He didn’t get as much playing time and wasn’t used to Cleveland’s slower pace and offensive strategy on the court. After a disappointing season for the Cavaliers, he was traded to Houston and began showing signs of improvement on the court when he buckled down and went to work on his shooting and ball handling skills. For Casspi, no matter which team he plays for, he’s always going to give it his all, during team practices and plenty of hours spent training on his own. He’s able to improve season to season, not just because he works on his physical skills, but he’s also making sure he’s focused, has the right attitude about the game, and appreciates how far he’s come.

Significance for Israel having an Israeli in NBA

Although it’s significant in and of itself that Israel has an Israeli represented in the NBA, Casspi does his part to share a side of Israel that doesn’t revolve around politics or religion. The Omri Casspi Foundation brings fellow NBA players and other professional athletes to Israel to show them (and the rest of the world) how beautiful Israel is as a country. The group visited numerous sites around Israel (The Kotel, Dead Sea, Tel Aviv, etc.) and spent a day meeting hundreds of students in Ramle, interacting with Muslim, Jewish, and Christian children. Of course, having an Israeli in the NBA is a point of pride for many Israelis and the state itself, but his presence in the league is also significant because he’s able to use his celebrity to shine a light on the fact that there’s a lot more to Israel than people realize.

Post Reading Questions:

  • What is the mindset that helped Omri become a successful athlete?
  • Is it significant for Israel that there is an Israeli NBA player?
  • Should NBA players play a role in representing Israel to the world to raise awareness that Israel is more than its politics?  
  • Is it important that Israelis are represented in other leagues across the world?