Kings center Domantas Sabonis at Chabad of Sacramento's Purim party, March 7, 2023.
Kings center Domantas Sabonis at Chabad of Sacramento's Purim party, March 7, 2023.

‘We’re gonna need a bigger mikvah’: Twitter reacts to news that Kings star Domantas Sabonis is converting

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The news that Sacramento Kings All-Star Domantas Sabonis keeps kosher and studies with a rabbi in preparation for converting to Judaism, which J. broke last week after speaking to his Jewish wife, has reverberated across the Jewish sports world.

On Twitter, many celebrated in the way that Jewish Twitter users do best — by posting niche jokes and memes.

“We’re gonna need a bigger mikvah,” wrote Danny New, a TV news anchor in Denver, referring to the ritual bath that the 7-foot-1 Sabonis, should he so choose, will immerse himself in as part of the conversion process. New was riffing on the “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” scene from the Steven Spielberg classic “Jaws,” a GIF of which he attached to his tweet.

“Wait until they tell him he’s going to get hagbah every week for the rest of his life,” wrote user @ShleppingN, referring to the honor of hoisting the Torah into the air after the reading is completed on Shabbat, in the Ashkenazi tradition, for all to see. (The honor is often given to someone who is tall, or at least has some upper-body strength, since Torah scrolls typically weigh 20 to 25 pounds.)

Other users fantasized about one day adding Sabonis’ name to a hypothetical all-Jewish all-star team. “Larry Brown – Jordan Farmar – Deni Avdija – Amar’e Stoudemire – Domantas Sabonis … Who’s beating this squad?????” Jared Dubin, a writer for CBS Sports, wrote, apparently in jest. (He left off arguably the greatest Jewish player ever, 12-time NBA All-Star Dolph Schayes, the only Jew selected to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team.)

Brown is a former player and coach who won the 2004 NBA Finals as the coach of the Detroit Pistons. Farmar won two championships with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 and 2010; he also played for Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2011 and 2015. Avdija plays for the Washington Wizards and is the only active Jewish player in the NBA. Stoudemire, himself a Jew-by-choice, had a solid NBA career before playing in Israel, where he won two league championships, one in 2017 with Hapoel Jerusalem and another in 2020 with Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Puns were also popular. “Light the Bema!” wrote a number of Twitter users, making a play on the Kings’ catchphrase this season of “light the beam.” In celebration of every home win, the team has illuminated a powerful purple laser above the team’s arena, Golden 1 Center, in downtown Sacramento.

Sara Bannerman, a Jewish Kings fan who lives in Sacramento and can see the beam from her house, told J. she was excited about Sabonis’ decision to join the Jewish people. “I love that he is going to formally convert and I got a grin reading the news,” Bannerman wrote in an email to J. “But ultimately it is his personal choice, and as a fan I support him no matter what religion (or lack of) he chooses to identify as.”

Another Jewish Kings fan, Pavel Krylov, said the news was made even sweeter by the fact that Sabonis is a well-known, highly skilled player. “He is a very respected player,” Krylov wrote. “I do always consider who may be representing us [Jews] and I am glad he will be another positive face!”

How will Sabonis stack up against other very tall Jews?

Rabbi Lex Rofeberg of Providence, Rhode Island, thinks he’s pretty high on that list (pun intended). In a tweet, Rofeberg noted that he’s taller than both ​​Stoudemire (6-foot-10) and Dolph Schayes (6-foot-8).

Other notably tall Jews throughout history include King Saul, who was described in 1 Samuel as being “a head taller than any of the people,” as well as American lawyer and former professional basketball player Eric Gingold (7-foot-3), active Israeli player Gilad Levy (7-foot-2), retired American player Danny Schayes (Dolph’s son, 6-foot-11), and retired Israeli player Omri Casspi (6-foot-9).

Towering above them all, however, would be the Israeli-born American entertainer Eddie Carmel, who was called “The Jewish Giant.” Carmel had gigantism and stood somewhere between 7-foot-3 and 9 feet, according to various sources.

Sabonis and the Kings have a 2-0 lead over the Golden State Warriors in their first-round playoff series. Game 3 is Thursday in San Francisco.

Andrew Esensten
Andrew Esensten

Andrew Esensten is the culture editor of J. Previously, he was a staff writer for the English-language edition of Haaretz based in Tel Aviv. Follow him on Twitter @esensten.