Basketball game predictions can be challenging, but one observer made it simple before the Motor City Cruise’s most recent home game: “There’s going to be a lot of yarmulkes here.”
That much quickly turned out to be accurate as the 3,000-seat Wayne State University Fieldhouse filled up before the team’s game against the Wisconsin Herd on November 17.
Many young lads, most Orthodox spectators, took seats in the arena to support this NBA G League team.
They danced for the camera, participated in dress-up activities presided over by the team announcer during timeouts, and took pictures with Turbo, the mascot for the Cruise.
Around a fifth of the game’s spectators were members of the Cruise’s Orthodox group, undoubtedly the loudest spectators.
They were more interested in Ryan Turell, a former star player at Yeshiva University, who had just joined the team three weeks previously and was set to play in his second home game as a professional, rather than the team itself, which is currently 1-6 on the season.
The fans cheered as Turell entered the game for the first time toward the end of the first quarter.
Their chanting swiftly changed to “Pass it to Ryan! They erupted when he hit a three.
A completely different scene occurred in Detroit during the antisemitism controversy that was happening elsewhere in the NBA, as Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving served a suspension and made numerous apologies for sharing antisemitic content online.
This scene was one of Jewish joy at the thrill of having a rooting interest in the game.
“Jews love basketball. They do,” Turell said.
“The Jewish community is incredible, them coming out and cheering me on. It means the world to me. And it’s special because it’s bigger than basketball,” Turell added.
The Pistons franchise took advantage of this chance by providing kosher hot dogs at the concession stand for their development team.
On December 4, there will be a Jewish Heritage Night with Hanukkah gelt and menorah giveaways, opportunities for Jewish day school students to stand with Pistons players during the National Anthem and high-five them, as well as a basketball game between two neighborhood Jewish day school teams at the Pistons’ practice facility.
Staff photographers frequented the Turell fan area throughout the Herd game to capture photographs of children cheering while wearing kippahs and tzitzit and their preferred player in the background.