Willie Sims, The Basketballer Who Gave Up NBA Dream For Israel

Orrling, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Israeli-American basketballer Willie Sims has passed away.

Willie Sims, a member of LSU’s 1981 NCAA Final Four team who became affectionally know by LSU fans as “Super Sub”, passed away on Dec. 23 at the age of 64.

Sims had been hospitalized in Israel, where he has lived for years, since a heart attack in August.

Sims was part of a very successful run of LSU teams that won regular season conference championships in 1979 and 1981, the SEC Tournament championship in 1980 and the NCAA Final Four run in 1981.

Sims was born in Lanett, Alabama and grew up in New York City. He was Jewish and predominantly raised by his grandmother, who converted to Judaism following her marriage to Sims’ grandfather.

He played high school basketball at Long Island City High School and college basketball at LSU from 1977 until 1981.

Sims took part in the 10th 1977 Maccabiah Games as part of the United States national basketball team. He scored the winning shot against Israel in the finals and helped the United States to the title. He also played in the 11th Maccabiah Games, again representing the United States.

Sims was drafted in 1981 by the NBA’s Denver Nuggets in the fifth round of that year’s NBA draft, but he elected to play professionally in Israel where he became a beloved figure in the game of basketball in the country.

Sims played in Israel for Maccabi Haifa B.C. from 1981 to 1983. From 1983 to 1985 he played for Hapoel Tel Aviv B.C., where he won the Israeli Basketball State Cup. From 1985 until 1987 he played for Elitzur Netanya and from 1987 to 1992 he played for Maccabi Tel Aviv B.C., where he won the Israeli Basketball Super League five times and won three Israeli State Cups. He then played for the Hapoel Eilat basketball club from 1992-to-1996.

Over the course of 15 seasons, he played 309 league games in Israel and scored 3,761 points. He is ranked in the top 50 of the greatest players of all time in the country. He also appeared in 76 playoff games in Israel, in which he scored 842 points, ranking 14th on the list of all-time best players in the playoffs in Israel.

He is survived by his wife, Ariella, and three children. His daughter, Danyelle, is married to former Israeli basketball player Gal Mekel, who played in the NBA for the Dallas Mavericks and briefly for the New Orleans Pelicans.

From what I can see, was a fitness trainer up until his heart attack and was truly beloved here in Israel. And it seems the feeling was mutual.


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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