Day 17: Hondo

Omertime

Today is Day 17 of the Omer. Tife’ret sheb’tif’eret. Balance & beauty.

Today’s player is an 8x NBA Champion, 8x member of the All-Defensive team, and 13x All-Star. John “Hondo” Havlicek was a well-rounded Hall of Famer, who grew from a rookie hanging his hat on defense to retiring as the Boston Celtics all-time leading scorer at 26,395 points (a record he still holds to this day). 

Hondo played 16 years, averaging 20.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists and in Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals, he stole the ball and ended the game and series.

Havlicek went from being the 6th man on the great Celtics title teams in the 60’s, to one of its stars, in the 1970s. In 1973-74, he averaged 26.4 points and 7.7 rebounds to become Finals MVP as the Celtics brought home their first championship since the retirement of Bill Russell…

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Day 16: Kung Pow

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Today is Day 16 of the Omer. Gevurah sheb’tif’eret. Power that flows from balance.

For the second day in a row, during this week of tif’eret, we are honoring a European big man with an all-around game. There are a few players with more balanced games or more balanced interests than Pau Gasol. Lee Jenkins does an excellent job capturing Pau’s love of art, music, medicine, and culture in his article, “The Power of Pau.” 

Ultimately, it is Pau’s power that earns him the nod on Day 16, the day of gevurah (power, might, strength). I don’t think I fully respected the lanky 7 footer’s strength during his career.. Buried in the anonymity of Memphis for 7 years and labelled as a soft European big man, I was surprised to see that Gasol averaged 9.2 rebounds over 18 seasons. For most of those, he was a double-double machine, averaging…

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Day 14: Cynthia Cooper

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When the WNBA launched in 1997, I knew all the best American players. They were the members of the 1996 Olympic Team that had just won the gold medal. At least that is who the WNBA marketed, players like Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes, and Rebecca Lobo.

And then here comes #14, Cynthia Cooper, scoring 22 points, 4.7 assists, and 2.1 steals/game to win the MVP and lead the Houston Comets to the first WNBA Championship. At the age of 34, Cooper came into the WNBA as a relative unknown to casual fans and dominated, winning 2 MVPS, and leading the Comets to four straight WNBA Championships, each time winning Finals MVP. Talk about malchut, or sovereignty. Cooper came into the league, took the crown, and her reign did not end until she retired in 2000 at the age of 37. 

But on this day of malchut sheb’gevurah, it’s…

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Day 15: Big Honey

Omertime

Today is Day 15 of the Omer. Hesed sheb’tif’eret. Generousity that flows from balance.

Today begins weeks 3 of the Omer, the week of tif’eret, which connotes beauty, harmony, balance, and compassion and the different ways they manifest in the world. There are few players in the NBA with a more balanced offensive game than the 25 year old, center, Nikola Jokić. The 7ft, 250 lbs big man doesn’t look like the kind of physical specimen that would dominate some of the greatest athletes in the world, but that’s exactly what he does, night after night.

As an under the radar, 2nd round draft pick from Serbia in 2015, little was expected of Jokić. However, since moving into the starting lineup and gaining consistent playing time, he has emerged as an All-star and the leader of one of the best teams in the NBA. Over the last three years…

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Day 13: The Godfather of the Euro step

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Today is Day 13. Yesod sheb’gevurah. Laying a foundation through power.

Heading into the 1988 Seoul Olympics, US Men’s Basketball Team had lost only once in its history, to the Soviet Union at the 1972 Olympics in an extremely controversial ending. But there was no debate over their second loss, again to the U.S.S.R., this time in the 1988 Olympic Semifinals. The group of talented US amateurs lost to a mature and experienced Soviet National team led by 24 year old Sarunas Marciulionis. He scored 19 points against the US that day and 21 points against Yugoslavia to help the Soviet Union win the gold medal.

Marciulionis was a 1987 6th pick of the Golden State Warriors, but he was stuck behind the Iron Curtain. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Marciulionis made his way to the NBA in 1989 along with another European great, the late, Drazen…

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Day 10: Name the Player

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Today is Day 10. Tif’eret sheb’gevurah. Beauty that emerges from strength.

All-American in high school.  Two-time national champion in college.  Voted the top collegiate point guard in the country three times.  College player of the year as a senior.  Number one draft pick.  Three championships in the pros.  Eleven All-Star appearances.  The all-time assists leader.  Four time Olympic gold medalist.  

You may be racking your brain.  “John Stockton?  But he never won a title.  It must be a guy who played back in the 1950s.  Slater Martin?  Dave Bing?”  Sorry, no.  This player did not play in the 1950s.  She is still playing to this day.  She won a WNBA title two years ago.  She plans to play in the 2020(ish) Olympics, even though she will be 40 years old.

If you were in a lab trying to create a basketball player like Sue…

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Day 4: Dolph Schayes

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4/12 – Netzach sheb’hesed

Today is Day 4 of the omer. Netzach sheb’hesed. From love, there emerges eternity.

One of the things that’s becoming clearer to me is that while the sefirah of the week is primary, the way that it manifests on each day will be different. During this week of hesed, it is loving-kindness that motivates everything, even if what is visible to the world is something else, like power or beauty.

Today we focus on a player whose love for the game manifested in the attribute of netzach, meaning: triumph, victory, or endurance. With apologies to Luis Scola, who at the age of 39, was still dominating some of the world’s best players in China last summer, there can be only one choice for Day 4, the greatest Jewish basketball player of all time, Dolph Schayes.

Schayes was a 6’8” stretch power forward, with size…

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Day 3: She Got Game

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Tif’eret, often translated as beauty, compassion, or harmony, is the perfect integration of hesed (love) and gevurah (power). So on Day 3 of the Omer, we are going with the woman that Doris Burke calls the “most versatile women’s basketball player that we have ever laid eyes on.”

The 2x WNBA MVP and the 2016 WNBA champion is the perfect blend of power and finesse. She garnered attention for her dunks, but if that’s all you see, you’re missing out one of the greatest to ever play the game. She handles like a guard and finishes like a center. At 6’4” she can punish you on the inside and still take you out on the wing to shoot the three or dribble by you.

To list all of her accomplishments would fill up the entire post. She has won championships and the MVPs at every level she has played…

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Day 1: Pure Loving-Kindess

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Today is day one of the Omer. Hesed sheb’hesed. Within loving-kindness there is loving-kindness.

Which basketball player (who wore the #1) most embodies pure hesed? That is our goal, as we begin the Omer tonight. For the first week, we will focus on players who embody hesed, an open-hearted, free-flowing form of loving-kindness. Each day will carry a secondary value, but today is all about the truest expression of hesed.

With the help of my cousin Ben, I pored over the list of eligible players. It was tempting to choose Zion Williamson. He plays the game selflessly, perhaps too selflessly at times. He’s humble, loves his Mom, and wants to share the spotlight and the rock with his teammates. He also pledged to pay the salaries of all the workers at the Pelicans arena after the NBA season was shut down, an incredibly generous act…

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Day 12: The Big Kiwi

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Today is Day 12. Hod sheb’gevurah. Might that manifests in humility.

There are few men in the NBA stronger than Steven Adams. If you don’t believe me, just ask Jimmy Butler (NSFW). The native New Zealander, is big and strong, and unafraid to throw his weight around. When I think of gevurah, I think of players like Adams. 

But not every big man, would be the right choice for Day 12, hod sheb’gevurah, a combination of sefirot that shows how power can manifest in humility. Adams is willing to do all the dirty work and all the team-first plays that don’t show up in a typical box score. He walls off the paint, boxes out, and sets physical screens to free up his teammates. Oh and he can finish well too.

Adams also rebounds, but his 7.6 rebounds/game, are not what you’d expect from a 6’11” 265 lbs center…

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