Story by Matt DeFaveri
Photography by Laura Watilo Blake
Sinking into the folds of a dark brown leather sofa in the players’ cafeteria at Cleveland Clinic Courts in Independence, Cavaliers forward Omri Casspi jawed good-naturedly with teammate Daniel “Booby” Gibson. “GQ for real, damn!” Gibson said, pointing to Casspi’s stylish, custom-made gray suit. “You clean up good, homie. You clean up real nice.” Casspi turned toward me. “See? They’re giving me a hard time.” He turned back to Gibson. “Hey, Booby! Don’t give me a hard time, man!” Casspi sat down with JSTYLE to talk fashion, the single life and his move to downtown Cleveland from Lakewood. Turn to the next page for our Q&A.
The 6-foot-9 Israeli looked infinitely more comfortable than he did at training camp a year ago, following a trade to Cleveland from the Sacramento Kings and a 149-day lockout.
Maybe it was the new environment or the truncated schedule that affected him then, but the aftermath of a disappointing season melted away in the summer heat once Casspi had time to gel with the city and its fans.
He teamed up with Tamir Goodman, dubbed the “Jewish Jordan” by Sports Illustrated, for a series of youth basketball camps and spent time scouting out a new pad on West 9th Street, eager and determined to return to the hardwood floor refreshed and ready for action.
And through everything, he emerged victorious.
Despite rumors in August that the team would buy out his contract, Casspi looked happy just living in the moment, sprawled out on the dark brown leather sofa after wrapping the photo shoot.
Casspi shed his suit jacket and walked through the training court on his way to the locker room. He paused, bent over and picked up a basketball, methodically practicing his layups. Four with the right hand, four with the left. His smile belied his fatigue, but he looked loose and at ease.
Any bad thoughts, any negative feelings from last season seemed to fade into nothingness, their very existence like a dream.
Jstyle: Looks like you’re catching some flak from your teammates.
Omri Casspi: Yeah, they’re giving me a hard time, especially now we’re in the practice facility and they look at me dressed up in all my clothes.
JS: Who’s the most fashionable guy on the team?
OC: I’d say Tristan Thompson. I like Tristan’s style. He likes to dress up. Especially now with the dress code, everybody likes to dress up.
JS: Do you take fashion advice from him?
OC: Oh, no, no, no, no, no. (laughs) I’ve got my own private style and I like doing my own thing.
JS: Do you have a tailor here in Cleveland?
OC: He’s based in Columbus. He comes up twice a year to do my suits and whatever else I need.
JS: What’s your personal philosophy when it comes to style?
OC: I like to get dressed up. I think it’s very important. Obviously, we’re playing in the NBA and we have a dress code, but at the same time, even if we didn’t have that, it would be very important for me. You have to treat yourself the way you want people to look at you. If you dress nice and respect the game of basketball and respect your fans, people look at you in a respectful way.
JS: How has your sense of style changed since coming to Cleveland?
OC: It changed more when I got to the NBA. We have tailors that make our suits and I really built my closet from scratch. When I was 21, 20, coming from Israel, I didn’t really have any sense of any style.
JS: Have any players in the league influenced your style?
OC: My rookie year, I was good friends with Francisco Garcia in Sacramento. He was the one that got me into my tailors and got me into fashion and looking nice for the games.
JS: How have things changed after moving from Lakewood to West 9th Street?
OC: It hasn’t changed much. I usually hang out more at my place. Lakewood is obviously a little more laid back. Downtown, things are a little bit more alive here. I can go down the street, have some dinner. Everything is within walking distance.
JS: Which area did you enjoy more?
OC: Both places have their benefits. Being in Lakewood, my brother Eitan and my sister-in-law Michal lived with me. It was better for us at the time to relax and be around together. Here, I’m by myself, so having a condo is a lot more convenient for me.
JS: Is it pretty easy for you to meet people when you go out?
OC: I mean, obviously it’s not Israel, but we have a very big Jewish community in Cleveland, which is very welcoming and warm; it’s nice.
JS: We’ve got women reading this who want to know: are you single?
OC: (laughing) Yes, I’m single.
JS: Who approaches first, you or the girl?
OC: I’m usually the one to approach, but I don’t go out a lot. We have a very tight schedule, especially when we’re on the road. But I try to have fun.
JS: What are your guilty food pleasures?
OC: I’m a big fan of pizza. I’m a big fan of Italian food. I don’t think pizza is as bad as people think it is, but that’s something that I really like. It’s an out-of-the-diet type of thing.
JS: Do you go crazy with the toppings?
OC: Nothing too crazy. Just cheese, mostly.
JS: Walk me through a typical night out for you and your friends in Cleveland.
OC: I’m more of a low-key type of guy. We go have a nice little dinner, maybe drink a little bit of red wine. Other than that, we just lay low, that’s what most of our nights out look like.
JS: Best show on television right now?
OC: I like Homeland. I like Boardwalk Empire, too. That one’s very interesting.
JS: How do you unwind after a stressful day?
OC: I just like to lie down at my house, watch some TV, relax. Maybe take a nap. We go through so many games during the season. We go through a lot of stress. But when I get home, I try not to think about basketball all the time. I take my mind somewhere else.
JS: What’s one thing you miss doing as a kid that you don’t have time for today?
OC: I don’t know if there’s one thing. When you’re a little kid you don’t have to worry about anything. You just kind of live your life. You’re not worried about anything. You go to school, that’s about it. Now you’re under a lot of pressure to perform all the time and play well, and you’re far from your family. It’s a little different. js