The Deni effect in Deni Avidija's NBA career - comment

Depending on his longevity, Avdija has a chance to become an unofficial ambassador for Israel, similar to the likes of Gal Gadot.

 WASHINGTON WIZARDS forward Deni Avdija goes for a layup against the Toronto Raptors.  (photo credit: GEOFF BURKE/USA TODAY SPORTS VIA REUTERS)
WASHINGTON WIZARDS forward Deni Avdija goes for a layup against the Toronto Raptors.
(photo credit: GEOFF BURKE/USA TODAY SPORTS VIA REUTERS)

Being a self-proclaimed “basketball nerd,” I’ve retained my fanship since immigrating to Israel from the US over 3 years ago. Watching full games has mostly been reduced to highlights over time, yet my love for the game hasn’t wavered one millimeter.

Growing up in Phoenix, Arizona, my team is the Phoenix Suns and I “bleed” purple and orange – the team’s colors. However, something strange has occurred over the past year or so. When I first wake up in the morning to check the box scores, my eyes don’t glance to the likes of the mega-superstars in the league. I immediately want to know how Deni Avidija, Israel’s representative in the NBA as a reserve forward for the Washington Wizards, played.

A quarter into the 2021-2022 NBA season, the Wizards are red-hot with a revamped roster from last season. Most notably, in my own eyes (along with prominent NBA media members), this leap to the top of the standings has much to do with the stellar defense of Avdija, the former Maccabi Tel Aviv legend. Stats and statistics certainly contribute to the Avdija NBA experience, but something else has started to occur with his growing profile, as he comes back from a rookie season-ending ankle injury.

Globally, the Jewish people are taking note of Avdija. Some may want to label this the “Omri Casspi effect,” but I would contend that the second Israeli to play in the highest basketball league in the world is blazing his own path with his impact on Jewish communities.

I have a fond memory of Casspi and the Sacramento Kings playing on Hanukkah and having a “Jewish day” in Phoenix, simply because he was in the building. Social media has since made its way throughout the world and can be seen with the Wizards’ actions.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS Israeli rookie Deni Avdija (right) defends New York Knicks forward Julius Randle, who scored a game-high 37 points for the host Knicks in a 131-113 victory over the Wizards on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. (credit: VINCENT CARCHIETTA/USA TODAY SPORTS)WASHINGTON WIZARDS Israeli rookie Deni Avdija (right) defends New York Knicks forward Julius Randle, who scored a game-high 37 points for the host Knicks in a 131-113 victory over the Wizards on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. (credit: VINCENT CARCHIETTA/USA TODAY SPORTS)

Hebrew-only Instagram and Twitter pages have been launched to help promote the appeal of Avidija making it big. I’m constantly in conversations with basketball fans about what Deni is doing for the religion, the country, and the passion for Jews both in America and Israel.

Depending on his longevity, Avdija has a chance to become an unofficial ambassador for Israel, similar to the likes of Gal Gadot. Undoubtedly, Casspi was able to open up the gates for fans to have familiarity with an Israeli player, but Avdijas’s potential in today’s atmosphere is infinite.

 Drafted with the ninth overall selection, the expectations are demanding for the Washington organization and his on-court performance. However, the capacity to positively influence Jews from a multitude of backgrounds is going to be something to follow.

The challenge doesn’t appear to faze Avdija in the slightest. On Holocaust Remembrance Day, he donned shoes with the message Yizkor (“Remember”), letting the world visualize his support for Holocaust survivors.

 Moves like this show his maturity at the ripe age of 20. I am all on board the “Deni Avdija Bandwagon” and hope to see it make its way around the world!

The writer is a student at Bar-Ilan University.