Mekel Must Choose Where to Play
By: Zach Blank
There is a question in the sports world that is the equivalent to the ultimate question of life and that is the question of club versus country. The crux of the “Club v Country” debate is whether professional athletes should be more devoted to their respective clubs or countries. Gal Mekel, member of the Dallas Mavericks and second Israeli to enter the NBA behind Omri Casspi, is the latest player to face the wrath of this never-ending debate.
Mekel, who signed with the Mavericks in early July, was expected to play for the Israeli National Basketball team in the upcoming Eurobasket tournament until the Dallas organization asked him not to play in order to participate in training camp and prevent any avoidable injuries before his rookie debut. Eventually, Mekel decided not to play for his country and satisfy his club.
The two opposing leaders who each campaigned playing for their respective team are Arik Shivek, head coach of the Israeli National Basketball team, and Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks.
Shivek, who was under the impression that Mekel would be playing for him throughout the Eurobasket tournament, appeared to be livid about Dallas’ request. When asked about the situation, Shivek stated that he believes that the Mavericks organization put Mekel in an “impossible situation.” Shivek added that Mekel’s final decision was based on the pressure from Mark Cuban and Mavericks GM, Donnie Nelson.
On the contrary, Cuban has been known to be a long-term advocate against professional athletes playing for their countries. Prior to the 2012 Olympics, Cuban came out with a statement saying, “t’s just the epitome of stupidity that we would allow ourselves to be used so other corporations can make tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars.” Cuban added that he does not believe players should put themselves in situations where they could obtain any potential injury.
In order to help set an example to his younger teammates, Dirk Nowitzki, an 11-time All-Star and the icon of the Dallas organization, also opted not to play for his country (Germany) in this year’s Eurobasket tournament in order to stay well-rested for the upcoming NBA season. By doing so, Nowitzki successfully showed players such as Mekel the type of commitment that the club expects from its players. Another player who set precedent for Mekel is Omri Casspi who was placed in an extremely similar situation before his rookie debut with the Sacramento Kings. At the time, Casspi opted not to play for Israel after he signed with the Kings in order to prove his loyalty to his new club.
In the end, it is irrelevant if it was the pressure from the Dallas organization, the precedent set by Nowitzki and Casspi, or his own decision but Gal Mekel will not be playing for Israel in the upcoming Eurobasket tournament. It is now every man’s own decision whether it was the right move.