The Big Chop

My hair was the last remaining connection to a season passed. It had been more than 6 months since I had last cut it—five and a half months longer than usual. With the exception of an experimental phase in my young teens, I never wore my hair this long. For whatever reason, I let it get away from me while living in Israel. I could blame it on incompatible power outlets or not trusting foreign barbers, but I could’ve easily bought an affordable and perfectly sufficient pair of clippers. Even if I left them behind when I moved back to the states, the purchase would’ve still made sense. Trust me, I did the math. Instead I just let it grow.

What started as my usual all-even, close shave now sprouted and tangled away from my scalp in untamed clumps. It had been regularly battered by the Israel heat, soiled by the Tel Aviv beach sands, and routinely rinsed in the Mediterranean. Shampoo and conditioner were great but I’m going to be honest, my hair was an absolute mess. No one had more fun reminding me than my neighbors and good friends, the Moshe family. I joked that I’d cut it when I returned to America, never believing I’d actually wait that long. But there I was in Atlanta, staring in the mirror thinking to myself, “maybe I’ll just keep it”.

In many ways, the nomadic, international pro athlete’s hair tells a story. It’s a biological chronicle of time spent abroad, of travels enjoyed and struggles endured. Judging by the length, I’d had a fair share of my own. I will always remember this first season abroad and the countless stories, images, and experiences with which it has left me. As a team we exceeded expectations. We overcame adversity and reached the Cup Final Four. We triumphed our doubters to finish in the Top-4 group and qualify for playoffs. We painted the city red and brought a derby win to our fans. With our successes, we also had our disappointments—an early season losing streak, home court losses, an early exit from the playoffs.

Away from the court, I won’t forget Tel Aviv, taking trips to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, cursing to myself for getting on Ayalon 20 at 5PM, Dixie conversations at 3AM with my teammates, BBQs and NBA2K with the Moshe family, stressing about parking, and de-stressing at the beach. These few things barely skim the surface of the last eight months. But in lieu of rambling on, all I can confidently say is that it was an incredible experience.

Basketball games and beach days aside, I will always remember the people with whom I shared this time. As I sit back and reflect on the season, I realize they’re the ones—their conversations, laughs, and even yelling— who give value to all of these experiences. And I’m just thankful I had some genuinely great people to share it with.

Thank you to the Hapoel Tel Aviv BC team management for all they did to make me and my teammates feel like much more than contracts, but like family. From day one, fresh off a flight from Italy, they wanted Tel Aviv to feel like home. Thank you to the coaches for their unwavering passion for their crafts. A special shoutout and thank you to the Jack of all trades and team Houdini, Korki—always ready to fly in on his scooter and save the day. Also, a special thank you to the Ishai, Noa, and Itai Moshe.

I had some awesome teammates that fought beside me everyday. Thank you to the old heads Thor, Matan, and Vivo, to my kin T-relly and Yoyo, and to the kids Golan, Rom (aka Pau Jorge, aka Fwendy’s, aka Powder Blue), Stein and Jonathan Steim. Thanks to the rooks VC and Ant. And thank you to CB (and his wife, Cassie) and Harp, the guys with whom I was lucky enough to share a second professional season. They really helped keep everything about this game and profession in perspective.

Lastly, thank you to the Hapoel Tel Aviv fans. I’ve never had the pleasure of playing for such dedicated, engaged, and energetic support. Every game, road or away, I knew there would be beating drums, waving flags, and a raucous group ready to fight their way to jail for this team. I’ve got to say, that’s a great feeling that I’ll always keep with me.

As I adjust to the pace back home and my nomadic offseason lifestyle, I ponder exactly that—things I’ll keep with me. Upon my return to Atlanta, I realized I didn’t purchase any trinkets, post cards, key chains or cheesy tee shirts. Those things get lost. Perhaps I thought I’d keep my hair as a reminder of my eight months spent abroad in Israel—a souvenir of sorts. Or maybe it was a symbol of how much I’d changed during that time. I’m not sure. After a few days home, I oiled my clippers for the first time since August and watched in the mirror as puffs of hair floated to the bathroom floor.

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3 responses to “The Big Chop

  1. Thank you Josh for a great season. Good luck on your next journey, Hope to see you sometime on The Einstein “Drive In” Arena
    We love you, Hapoel Family. Yalla Hapoel ❤

  2. thanks for all you did for us and for hapoel.
    we won’t forget you as long as we live.
    good luck in the next seasons, -just hapoel-.

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