Basketball Without Borders, NBA stars coming to Israel this summer

Against the backdrop of the BDS movement and calls for international celebrities to boycott coming to Israel, the National Basketball Association is bringing its Basketball Without Borders (BWB) program to the Jewish state this summer.

The basketball camp will be based at the Wingate Institute in Netanya and will run from Aug. 13 to 16. The best teenaged basketball players from 30 countries, including Israel, will participate and be privy to training from coaches and star players for the NBA and FIBA (International Basketball Federation, the world governing body for basketball).

Former Spurs All-Star player David Robinson, known as a dedicated Christian, is scheduled to be one of the coaches. Among current NBA players who have participated as campers are Marc Gasol of Spain (BWB Europe 2003), Danilo Gallianari of Italy (BWB Europe 2003) and Omri Casspi (BWB Europe 2005), an Israeli who plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves of the NBA. According to an NBA press release, Casspi intends to attend, stating: “I look forward to working with Europe’s top male and female players and showing them the beauty and culture of my home country.”

Since its inception in 2001 BWB has organized 49 camps in 25 countries, including India, Mexico and Italy. It has hosted more than 2,700 participants from some 134 nations.

Importantly, the vision behind BWB is to be a “basketball development and community outreach program that unites young basketball players to promote the sport and encourage positive social change in the areas of education, health, and wellness.”

Acknowledging the tensions in Israel and the surrounding regions, Kathy Behrens, NBA president of Social responsibility and Player Programs, told reporters: “We’re looking forward to the chance to bring all communities together for this program. This is going to be about bringing the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Druze and other communities together.”

The young players will also be involved in community outreach programs with youngsters in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

“These programs will highlight the power of sport to promote cultural understanding while teaching the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle and the values of the game, including teamwork, integrity and respect,” according to the NBA website.

This article was updated May 6, 2017.