Last night, Omri Casspi, the NBA’s first Israeli player, embarked on his inaugural journey to the White House. The Houston Rocket small forward went to D.C. not because he had won a championship, although his team is currently in the upper echelon of the rough-and-tumble Western Conference, but because it was the ninth night of Hanukkah and he had been invited to the White House Hanukkah party.
For days leading up to party, he excitedly posted on social media and when the time came for him to select a date, Casspi brought his mom. Aww…
Once he arrived, Casspi spoke with President Obama about basketball, star Rockets center Dwight Howard, and the gift jersey that he meant to bring along with him. The encounters were captured in a series of Instagram videos that Casspi posted online. Given his subpar recent rendition of the Dreidel Song, it was nice that he still made the list.
Perhaps more importantly, Casspi is also enjoying a breakout season on the Houston Rockets. After popping in his first season with the Sacramento Kings, Casspi fizzled a bit, ending up on the bench in Cleveland for the past two seasons with his minutes greatly diminished. When he signed with the Houston Rockets in the offseason, he joined an instant contender that needed a player with size, grit, and a long-range threat. Casspi has responded well, playing in almost all of the Rockets games thus far, averaging career highs in minutes, points, rebounds, shooting percentage, steals, and assists. He also continues to befuddle sportscasters, who don’t know any better than to call him Ahm-ree.
Here’s some footage of Casspi tearing up the Grizzles last month, wait for the breakaway slam at 1:19.
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.