Israelis in America were jubilant as David Blatt, the Israeli coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers now in his first year in the NBA, brought his team to the NBA Finals on Tuesday night local time.
Blatt's Cavs, led by LeBron James, swept the Atlanta Hawks in a Game 4 victory by a wide margin of 118-88, taking the Eastern Conference playoffs on their way to the finals against the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets – the Warriors lead the series 3 to 1.
"On behalf of all Israeli Americans in the United States, we congratulate David Blatt, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the City of Cleveland on their thrilling victory as Eastern Conference champions of the NBA," said Shawn Evenhaim, chairman of the Israeli-American Council (IAC).
"David is an Israeli-American success story – a true leader and role model who symbolizes our love for both Israel and the U.S.," concluded Evenhaim.
Blatt was born in the US and made his name playing basketball at Princeton University, before immigrating to Israel where he continued his career on the hardwood.
Later as a coach he led teams in Europe and Israel, winning the European championship at Maccabi Tel Aviv before becoming the first Israeli to coach in the NBA.
His Cavs will be in the NBA Finals for their second time ever, their first appearance coming in 2007 before James left for the Miami Heat. The team has yet to win a championship.