Star-spangled night

DC Wizards to hold Jewish heritage night featuring Israeli singer

Kobi Aflalo to kick off NBA game against LA Clippers by singing US national anthem; event will be live-streamed, featuring fun facts about Jews during timeouts

Screencapture from video of Israeli singer Kobi Aflalo. (YouTube)
Screencapture from video of Israeli singer Kobi Aflalo. (YouTube)

The Washington Wizards basketball team will celebrate a Jewish heritage night on Thursday as the NBA club hosts the Los Angeles Clippers for a game that will feature an Israeli artist singing the US national anthem.

Kobi Aflalo will belt out “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the start of an evening filled with fun facts about Jewish heritage and Israeli hit songs delivered during timeouts.

Fans can tune in via the Wizards’ Israeli Instagram page, the official NBA website reported.

There will be video messages from the Israeli embassy as well as from Israeli former NBA player Omri Casspi and players from the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball club and the Israeli National Team, the statement said.

Earlier in the day, Aflalo will be available live on the Instagram page to talk about his scheduled performance. In addition, Wizards small forward Deni Avdija, who is Israeli, will speak to fans at home in English and Hebrew.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Tyus Jones (21) goes to the basket against Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija (9) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, in Washington, March 2, 2021. (Nick Wass/AP)

On Wednesday, Avdija gave a special media session in preparation for the event, during which he answered questions in both Hebrew and English, the Sports Rabbi website reported.

Avdija described his excitement as “a kid from Herzilya” who has had the chance to play against stars such as Lebron James.

On the same day, Avdija was named as part of the NBA World Team’s Rising Star roster.

The Washington Wizards have focused on Israeli fans since drafting Avdija last year and have since set up an Instagram account in Hebrew to cater to Israeli fans, a first for an NBA team. It also has a Hebrew-language Twitter account.

Avdija, 20, has played professionally for Maccabi Tel Aviv since 2017 and is also a member of Israel’s men’s national team. He helped Israel win the FIBA international Under-20 championships in 2018 and 2019.

Avdija was born in his mother’s hometown of Kibbutz Beit Zera in Israel’s north. His father, Zufer Avdija, played for the Yugoslavian national basketball team and later moved to Israel, where he played professionally for several domestic clubs.

JTA contributed to this report.

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