Dvir Cahana balances religion and basketball while cheering on teammates
The Concordia Stingers men’s basketball team have their very own Energizer bunny by the name of Dvir Cahana.
Anyone who has attended a Stingers basketball game in the last three seasons has probably noticed Cahana hooting and hollering from the bench to pump up the team.
“I try to bring energy to the team when times are difficult,” Cahana said. “It’s hard to keep a high level of energy on the court so when I’m not playing, I try to spark the team to have cohesive unity amongst ourselves.”
Off the court, Cahana maintains that high level of energy. It isn’t out of the ordinary to find him freestyle rapping, dancing or singing around campus whenever he can. It doesn’t take long for him to bring smiles to peoples’ faces.
Born in Göteborg, Sweden, Cahana and his family moved to Canada when he was only five years old. His father is a rabbi, and one of the first jobs his dad was offered was at a synagogue in Montreal.
“We came to Montreal and felt right at home,” Cahana said. “And we’ve been here ever since.”
It was here that Cahana fell in love with the game of basketball. During his early years, Cahana was always known as “the tall kid.” He used his height to his advantage and started playing basketball to make new friends.
Cahana played forward for his high school team, Hebrew Academy, in Côte St-Luc, and when he wasn’t playing for them, he played in several summer leagues. It was at this point when he started to take basketball more seriously.
“The school league is solid, but when I would play in the summer, the top players would be murmuring on the side, ‘You should play the inter-city divisions because there’s stronger competition,’” he said.
Cahana took their advice and joined the inter-city division for the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association (YM-YWHA). His decision was met with uncertainty from his family as it led to more challenges than just tougher competition.
“My family wasn’t sure if I could play basketball at that level because, once we get into the inter-city context, I’d have to play games on the Sabbath,” Cahana said. “In order to keep that up, I’d have to walk long distances because, on the Sabbath, we’re not allowed to use electricity [or drive].”
In CEGEP, when he played for the Dawson Blues, Cahana had to walk to far places.
“I’d walk from my house [in the Town of Mount-Royal] to St-Bruno in the south, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue in the west, past Rivières-des-Prairies [in the east],” he said. “I’d [walk around] cities I had never been to like Boston and Albany [for tournaments], and just learn the lay of the land.”
Although this would seem like a daunting task for most people, Cahana said he believes it was a valuable experience in his life.
“It was important for me to figure out how to make sacrifices without impeding on my ethical compass or religious commitments,” he said.
Clearly committed to both basketball and his religion, Cahana worked exceptionally hard to earn a spot on the Concordia men’s team before the 2015-16 season.
A six-foot-three forward, Cahana said he admires NBA players like Matthew Dellavedova, who plays for the Milwaukee Bucks. Dellavedova is someone who isn’t necessarily the most skilled player on the court, but he brings grit, toughness and earns every opportunity he gets.
Similarly, Cahana works hard for his opportunities. Whether it’s waking up at 5:30 a.m. to walk to practice, or spending six hours alone in the gym developing his three-point shooting ability, he is always trying to get better.
Even more impressive, his presence is still felt when he’s not playing. The ultimate energizer, Cahana takes tremendous pride in supporting his teammates.
“I want others to experience the energy and passion I have for the game,” he said. “It’s not an individual sport where you’re doing everything for yourself. There’s this altruistic aspect where everything you do has a higher purpose for the team.”
Cahana was rewarded for all of his hard work in the team’s final game of the regular season, which was his final game with the Stingers. On Feb. 24, he played 27 minutes, the most of his three-year Stingers career in a 71-59 victory over the Université Laval Rouge et Or.
“It was an amazing feeling to represent the team for that period of time,” Cahana said. “It wasn’t just that I was playing. Every time I did something well, there was a roar in the crowd that was supportive.”
Following the game, he received a lot of positive feedback from teammates and fans.
“People came up to me to tell me that I inspired them,” he said. “That’s the most important thing, being able to influence people and have a positive impact on their lives.”
Cahana said he hopes he can continue to impact others in the foreseeable future. The third-year student is graduating with a major in political science. His goal is to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a rabbi himself.
“The role of a rabbi is a mixture of a parent and a political leader who guides the community. The suffix of that sentence is always ‘for the community,’” he said.
With a clear passion for inspiring others, Cahana seems more than ready to pursue the next chapter of his life.
Main photo by Alex Hutchins.