For someone who grew up outside of the country, Israel is often used as a
stepping stone, a conduit that bridges the gap between where you came from and
where you see yourself headed – spiritually and emotionally as often as
It’s a year between high school and college, it’s a place
to find spiritual guidance, it’s a chance to hitch your wagon to a budding
But for Ramel Bradley, Israel means something that it
can’t possibly mean for too many other people.
The 6-foot-2 Brooklyn
native is gathering steam towards the NBA, and he’s doing it at Maccabi
“My goal, my number one priority right now is to be back in the
States and play in the NBA,” Bradley says. “I started my one-year plan. It’s
about going after your dreams. Tomorrow might not be there, so if you want
something you’ve got to do it right now.” And he’s serious about the
His website, dreamsmooth.com, features a countdown to the
beginning of July, when the NBA summer league kicks off.
“Every day when
I wake up, I think about that goal I’ve set for myself,” Bradley says, his
urgency palpable. “Every practice, that’s what motivates me to get
And in every game, I know I have to give it my all.”
for Bradley, Israel is a stage, and he’s in the middle of his
So far, so good.
Newly-promoted Maccabi Ashdod is the
surprise of the BSL so far, and Bradley is a big reason why.
25-year-old is second in the league in scoring at 18.4 points per game, second
in steals (2.2), and second in free throw attempts (7.6) for the second-placed
southerners, who, according to Bradley, have succeeded thanks to their
“Over here, you want the best foreign players available at
whatever positions you can get them.
But you have to hope that they
players gel really well together,” he says. “Fortunately for us, we have gelled
really well. Nobody’s selfish.”
Bradley says the wheels are in motion to
make sure his one-year plan is completed by July.
“My agent, Andy Miller,
told me he’s in contact with a couple of teams, but I need to focus on Maccabi
Ashdod right now,” he says.
“Though just hearing news like that is a
boost for my motivation.”
But for now, he’s in Israel, living a life that
must be at once fulfilling and strange.
Following four years at the
University of Kentucky, Bradley played at Croatia’s Cedevita Zagreb and France’s
Dijon before landing in Ashdod. He’s seen a lot of European basketball in three
cosmopolitan years, and says that the BSL stacks up.
“There’s a lot more
talent in this league, and I think the way the league is handled – it’s very
professional in terms of how the games are televised a lot more, you’ve got
weekly analysis shows on TV, and it just seems like everyone I come across is a
huge basketball fan,” Bradley says. “That’s what makes the league more special
than in other places.” Israel wasn’t an entirely foreign entity,
“Being from New York with such a big Jewish community there,
everyone I came in contact with told me how wonderful my time here was going to
be,” he says.
The transition was also made easier by Meir Tapiro,
Bradley’s teammate and one of the BSL’s wiliest veterans.
taught me about Israeli basketball and becoming a better player,” says Bradley,
who’s added a bit of Tapiro’s plodding style to his own Brooklyn-infused
aggressiveness and penetration while at Ashdod.
But like every person
with a dream, the picture is significantly more complex.
up a great deal of space in Bradley’s heart, and it manifests itself in his
style of play as well as his second love – rapping.
“Most of the time
after practice or after a game I don’t have too much to do, so I rhyme on my
couch at home,” says Bradley, who has a new single, “Fly,” which is available on
“I left for a new land all by my lonely,” he sings in it. “And
the nights are lonely, but I know my momma prayin’ for her one and
And that’s how Brooklyn stays with him.
“New York is always
in my heart and in my mind, wherever I go,” he told me at a dinner after last
week’s BSL all-star game, where he went for 26 points in the foreigners’ 122-117
loss to the Israelis.
“I’m not really into the whole ‘see the world’
That night, Bradley turned Gan Ner into his own personal
performance hall – if only for a few minutes – as he pranced around the arena,
gesturing for Israeli basketball fans to put their hands up.
like someone that was comfortable under the spotlight, and he attributes that
quality to his days in Lexington.
“If I had to sum up my time at Kentucky
in one word, it would be ‘rockstar,’” Bradley says. “Everyone wants to know
where you are, everyone’s watching what you do every day.”
of living the college life in front of 24,000 screaming fans at Rupp Arena,
Bradley’s got a few loyal Ashdod supporters, his couch, a pad and a
But he’s also got a dream, and he very well may be on his way to