Israeli (Cyber) Hoop Dreams


Steven Minns, a basketball fan in New Jersey, says he had trouble following the exploits of his favorite player, Davon Jefferson, a former star at the University of Southern California now playing professional ball in Israel this season. Then Minns discovered the just-launched Web site,

It’s a site for fans, like Minns, who create imaginary rosters from the current players in Israel’s Premier League; participants’ fantasy “teams” vie with each other through the season, based on a formula that evaluates the players’ individual statistics. At the end of the league’s season next spring, the top-ranked fantasy participants will receive such prizes as a flat-screen TV and a trip to Israel.

Minns now is ranked fourth out of the 40 or so fans who have formed their own squads so far.

And Jefferson, a power forward on the Maccabi Haifa Heat, is among the top-ranked players in the fantasy league.

The fantasy league is the creation of Triangle Financial Services, the Miami-based sports and entertainment team that also owns the Maccabi team. It is, says Andrew Wilson, the firm’s director of marketing, “the first fully functional site in English” devoted to Israel’s top pro basketball league. Fantasy basketball is growing is Israel.”

The new site is the latest incarnation of the fantasy league concept hatched in the 1980s for baseball and initially referred to as the “Rotisserie League,” named for the New York restaurant where the original creators gathered.

Available on cable TV in Israel, European basketball and the NBA competes with soccer for the interest of Israeli sports fans. “This brings Israeli sports right to your home,” Wilson says.

The Israeli teams are stocked with Americans who previously played college or professional basketball here, which is a major attraction of the Israeli Web site.

Many fans have picked Carlos Arroyo, a point guard for Maccabi Tel Aviv who played seven NBA seasons, for their fantasy teams.

Minns, of course, chose Davon Jefferson for his team. Mid-season roster trades are allowed, but Minns has kept Jefferson on his team. “I’m pretty loyal,” he says. “I’ll ride with him.”
Minns says he joined the fantasy league simply to keep up to date with Jefferson. Now he’s become a fan of Israeli basketball. “It’s caught my attention.”