The Power of Omri Casspi

Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee writes about the NBA's first Israeli:

Clusters of spectators occupy sections in every arena, waving Israeli flags, chanting his name, pleading for an autograph, a high-five, or even a glance.

These past few days in particular have been a blur of activity: Pregame and post-game chats with a throng of fans Sunday in Toronto; a post-practice gathering Monday at Madison Square Garden with members of the media, including several Israeli television and print journalists; a private audience with Commissioner David Stern in his Olympic tower office hours later; a reception sponsored by the Israeli Consul General in the early evening and, finally, tonight's long anticipated Kings-Knicks matchup that is being marketed as Jewish Heritage Night. ...

The attention in Sacramento, Casspi's adopted hometown, is only slightly less intense. High school coaches ask him to address their teams. Congregations compete for his presence at religious functions. Jewish mothers try to fix him up with their daughters – requests he coyly refuses, he says, citing time constraints.

Then there's the baby, the namesake, another first. But little Omri Ruben Nelson, son of Tami and Louis Nelson of Elk Grove, probably won't be the last.

"Both of our parents are Israeli," said Tami Nelson, an elementary school teacher, "and we wanted our child to have a Jewish name. Then when Omri came to the Kings, we thought his story was inspiring. My sister actually wanted to name her baby Omri, too, but we beat her to it; she isn't due until March."