Israel is wonderful land to travel from the north to south and from east to the west. There’s plenty to do wherever you are in the Holy Land. Of course that includes not only the historical and biblical attractions, but also the world of Israeli sports.
Whether it’s a game in Jerusalem, the Galilee, Eilat or Nahariya, the country’s size allows one to go from the top to the bottom fairly quickly and afford one the chance to sample the local soccer, basketball and everything else in between.
One of the jewels is the city of Nahariya, which features a fantastic 2,500 seat arena nestled in the Ein Sara neighborhood where you can check out Ironi Nahariya, the local basketball team which was founded in 1970 and plays in the Israel Basketball Super League.
Nahariya may be way up north for some who live in the center of the country, but a visit to the area allows one to enjoy Rosh Hanikra and its grottoes, plus the many beaches along the shore. Of course, the American Basketball players who have signed with the club enjoy the pleasantries of being away from the big city and can walk the broad boardwalk for miles.
This season, Nahariya has featured a pair of players with NBA experience in Myke Henry and Jordan Crawford. Henry, 26, who has been with the team since the start of the season, appeared for the Memphis Grizzlies last year. Veteran guard Crawford, 30, who played for the Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors, was in Israel for a month and played his last game for the club this past week against Maccabi Tel Aviv.
A trip up to Nahariya gave The Jerusalem Post an opportunity to speak with both players as they experience the best Israel has to offer while also looking back at their careers to date.
“Nahariya has treated me well and has welcomed me with open arms,” said Henry with a huge smile on his face. “It’s a close-knit community and I’m enjoying myself. The people of Nahariya always say hello and talk to me when they see me around the city. It’s kind of fun to be a celebrity.”
Each player of course dreamed of playing in the NBA and both had players who they modeled their games after.
“Michael Jordan was a big influence as was Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill and Isaiah Thomas, guys that had skills and were very competitive,” said Crawford.
“When I was traded to Boston I had a chance to play with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce as well as practice with those guys on a daily basis. When I got to the Warriors I saw how professional players like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were.”
Henry also was influenced by a number of stars.
“I watched Carmelo Anthony and I’m a big Derrick Rose fan as I’m from Chicago. Plus Anthony Davis; I’m good friends with him.”
Crawford became an instant celebrity when he was at Xavier University after dunking on LeBron James at his basketball mini-camp and used the experience to push himself forward.
“I never made a big deal about it, but when others talked about it I realized what I had done and the meaning of it. I didn’t live off that and I did things to propel my career. It was good moment which helped me push on through and did more things,” noted Crawford
For Henry some advice on and off the court was always welcome.
“Danny Green, who is now with the Toronto Raptors, helped me and gave me some tips and confidence when I was playing against him. That was pretty cool that he really cared. All of the Memphis players were great, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol for example,” said Henry.
Smiling has been a way for Henry to always look at the bright side of life.
“You can call it a secret, but that’s just how I look at life. I look to embrace each day and be happy and not be angry which will last a brief moment and then ruin my whole day. I just keep it positive around me.”
Following a month in Israel, Crawford is looking for his next stop on his way back to the NBA and perhaps to a club near his birth city.
“I definitely want to get back home and play for my hometown team, the Detroit Pistons. That’s a goal of mine but I don’t look at that as my only success.”
Henry is taking a different approach to his career as he takes the path step by step.
“Every kid who plays basketball dreams of playing in the NBA. It’s something that I did and I made the dream happen, but I aspire to get back. Everyone has their own route to take. I’m taking my own journey and I’m not forced or pressured to play in the NBA or overseas; I just go with the flow.”
Where is the journey going to take Henry next?
“That’s part of the journey, you never know where it’s going to take you,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get back to the NBA. But for right now I’m enjoying my new family in Nahariya and it couldn’t be better.”
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