The word "Yizkor" (Remember) on NBA player Deni Avdija's shoe for the game played at the start of Holocaust Remembrance Day. (Twitter/Screenshot) (Twitter/Screenshot)
deni avdija holocaust remembrance

Pro-basketall player Deni Avdija arrives dressed in black, writes ‘Remember’ on his shoes for the game played on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

Israeli rookie basketball player Deni Avdija marked Holocaust Remembrance Day during Wednesday night’s NBA game between the Washington Wizards and the Orlando Magic, catching the attention of the NBC game announcers.

“Deni Avdija playing tonight on Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day – it’s a very somber day in Israel,” said the NBC announcer, “and on his sneakers he has written the word “Yizkor,” which is “remember” in Hebrew.

That message went out to the fans tuned in to watch the game, giving tens of thousands of basketball fans a small bit of Holocaust education. Perhaps inspired by the significance of the day, Avdija had one of his best games so far this year, scoring 16 points in Washington’s 131-116 victory over Orlando.

Avdija — a versatile 6-foot-9 forward — was drafted ninth overall by the Wizards in November, making him the highest pick ever from Israel. He’s been a starter all year for the Wizards, who are thrilled with his performance so far this season.

Before moving to the world’s top basketball league, Avdija played for three seasons with Maccabi Tel Aviv, the fabled powerhouse that has won more Israeli championships than any other team.

Why was the word on his shoe and not his team shirt?

“For all those who ask why NBA player Deni Avdija chose to mention ‘remember’ on the shoes and not on the shirt or pants, because players are not allowed to add any caption or logo on the team uniform, only on the shoes. Deni Avdija wanted to mention “Yizkor” as a proud Jew of the people of Israel, so he wrote about the shoes,” tweeted basketball fan Omer Halevy.

The Wizards know that Avdija has a huge fan base in Israel, and early in the season they opened a Hebrew language twitter account for Israeli fans.

The 20-year-old was a high school basketball star, led Israel’s youth team to two straight gold medals at the European championships, and is the youngest ever to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv when he signed as a 16-year-old.

Fluent in English but with a telltale Israeli accent, Avdija says he learned the language by watching TV and playing the computer game Call of Duty.

Avdija has basketball in his DNA. His father, Zufer Avdija, was born in Kosovo and played for the Yugoslavian national team before moving to Israel, where he played in Israel’s national league.

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