Forget Disney World — if Celtics win title, coach promises Jerusalem trip

Courtesy Athletes for Israel Instagram

Is there a Middle East element to the National Basketball Association championships?

Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving showed up to Game 2 of the Finals on June 9 with a keffiyeh hanging from his backpack. He wore one at a November press conference, and after Oct. 7 posted a message of support for “oppressed” Palestinians and accused Israel of crimes against humanity.

In 2022, when he was with the Brooklyn Nets, he reposted an antisemitic film on social media. He apologized but later removed the apology. In January, Utah Jazz fans held Jewish pride signs when the Mavs were in town, and Irving demanded their removal.

Conversely, Jewish businessman Mark Cuban, a minority owner of the Mavs, said he would like to see the Mavs do a friendly game against Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem in Israel.

Cuban said Irving wants to support all people in peace, and that he actually loves Israel.

Miriam Adelson, who has given a lot of money to Israel causes, is the current majority co-owner of the Mavs.

On the other side, forget going to Disney World — Boston Celtics Coach Joe Mazzulla has said that if the Celtics win, the team is going to Jerusalem. He said they would go to Jericho and walk to Jerusalem, especially through the Kidron Valley, where Jesus walked.

“It’s the most important place to go back and recenter yourself,” he said.

The day after Oct. 7, Mazzulla closed his press conference with expressions of concern for Israel. “There should be a lot of thoughts and prayers out to those people,” he said. Mazzulla has visited Israel twice, and in a video posted by Athletes for Israel, showed a lot of religious items from Jerusalem in his home. One of his trips was a few years ago with his high school priest, who he had remained close friends with.

A title in this championship series would be the Celtics’ 18th — 18 being significant in Judaism as the numerical equivalent for Chai, the Hebrew word for “life.”