Tal Brody

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Tal Brody

Postby rlee » Tue Aug 21, 2007 3:28 am

Basketball legend courted for Knesset
By GIL HOFFMAN
Jerusalem Post

After leading his teams to 10 championships in the Israeli Premier League, one New Jersey state high school title and a European championship in 1977 that in his words, "put Israel on the map," Tal Brody is looking for one more victory.

Yediot Aharonot reported on Monday that Brody had decided to run for Knesset with the Likud in the next general election. Brody told The Jerusalem Post he was leaning toward running, but he had not made a final decision about whether to give up his personal life in favor of a political world he did not know.


"I met with Bibi [Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu] and he wants people who haven't been involved in politics, who can contribute from different fields," Brody said. "I am happy that he turned to me. It's something I hadn't considered. I am considering it, because I could contribute on important topics I have been involved with for many years."
Since retiring from basketball, Brody has volunteered with many organizations, including the Spirit of Israel, which raises money for "vital human needs" as defined by the Jewish Agency and Keren Hayesod, and Migdal Or, which helps at-risk, impoverished, orphaned and underprivileged children, and spoken around the world for the Foreign Ministry and American Jewish organizations, improving Israel's image abroad and encouraging aliya.

Brody, who was born in Trenton, could be the first New Jersey native in the Knesset since Marcia Freedman, who served from 1973 to 1977. The Likud's Anglo division had been searching for an Anglo to run on its behalf for the Knesset.

"It's very important that Anglos are represented," Brody said. "Our numbers have increased thanks to the Jewish Agency, Nefesh B'Nefesh and birthright-israel."

Brody, 63, said the time was right for him to shift careers after many years running a firm that manages employment benefits programs for companies. He said the Knesset was a good way to spend the third phase of his life after basketball and business.

"People can see from my track record that I am able to do a lot of things that others can't do, because I have been able to take advantage of my name," Brody said.

Last year, he took a group of basketball players who endured the Second Lebanon War from Nahariya to New Jersey. In 2005, he helped send high school students who had been evacuated from Gush Katif to a New Jersey high school for a semester.

When he played for the University of Illinois in 1965, he was named one of the top college players in the US. After he led the United States team to a gold medal in the 1965 Maccabiah games, he joined Maccabi Tel Aviv and made aliya five years later.

Brody led Maccabi to the European Cup Championship in 1977 after a stunning upset of CSKA Moscow, which had won the four previous European titles. He was awarded the Israel Prize in 1979. In 1996, he joined the Likud, where he is a supporter of Netanyahu.

Likud MK Yisrael Katz, who heads the party's governing secretariat, said more well-known people were on the way to the Likud. But he said the biggest names would only join ahead of the general election to maximize the impact.

Netanyahu said candidates would join from business, academia and the IDF. Names raised recently include former finance minister and ex-Likud member Dan Meridor, former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya'alon and former IDF spokeswoman Brig.-Gen. Miri Regev.

"This is our ammunition for victory," Katz said. "And having Tal Brody in our faction will also help our faction's basketball team."
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Tal Brody: From high hoops to home truths

Postby rlee » Tue Dec 14, 2010 11:57 pm

From high hoops to home truths
By Daniel Ben-Tal
Israel21c.org
December 14, 2010

http://www.israel21c.org/201012148611/p ... ome-truths


Perhaps Israel's most-famous sportsman, Tal Brody is now a Goodwill Ambassador: "With my 45 years in Israel, I can help other people see many beautiful things."

When the Foreign Ministry appointed US-born former Israeli basketball star Tal Brody as Israel's international Goodwill Ambassador in July, he saw it as a completely natural progression. "I'm embarking on the third stage of my life," he tells ISRAEL21c. "This is what I want to do. I'm very proud as a sportsman to fill this role."

At 67, he could have retired, and together with his wife Tirtza enjoyed watching their five grandchildren grow up in Israel. Instead, he is taking on the role of roving ambassador. "It's a lot of energy moving around and talking, but I enjoy it," he says.

Arguably Israel's most famous athlete, Brody first came to Israel as captain of the gold-winning US team for the 1965 seventh Maccabiah, the quadrennial "Jewish Olympics."

A college hoops star at the University of Illinois, where he earned a Bachelor's degree in physical education and a Masters in educational psychology, the Trenton, New Jersey native was the number 13 Draft pick in 1965. But instead of pursuing an NBA career, he opted to help propel Israeli basketball onto the international scene.

"In 1966-7 I came here for one year. The idea was to help Israeli basketball. What happened to me that year pulled me into the second year. I saw the excitement basketball was generating, how the sport was influencing the morale of the country, just as the Egyptians and Syrians were getting ready to push us into the sea."

His second year in Israel was curtailed when the US military began recruiting graduates for the Vietnam War effort. "I joined the army's All-Stars team, and did goodwill tours of South America and Europe," he recalls. This included representing the USA in the World Championships in Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1970.

"During that competition I received a note from Moshe Dayan asking me to come back to Israel," he recalls. In Belgrade, he met with then-Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Yehoshua Rosen, who brought him back to Maccabi after his release from the US military.

Putting Israel "on the map"

What follows is part of Israeli sporting folklore. Under the guidance of the legendary late coach Ralph Klein, a Holocaust survivor who went on to coach the West German national team, Maccabi became Israel's first - and so far only - international sporting powerhouse.

Brody, a consistently influential shooting guard, captained the 1977 team that won the European Championships, beating Mobilgirgi Varese 78:77 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia on an unforgettable night that had the whole country glued to television screens. It was the first time an Israeli team had won any sporting competition of that caliber.

But the symbolic highlight was the 91-79 semi-final victory over CSKA Moscow, then one of Europe's top teams, played in Belgium after the Soviet champions refused to play in Israel or to host Israelis. Brody's immortal phrase from an animated post-game interview put the result in proportion: He and his teammates had put Israel "on the map."

"And we are staying on the map, not only in sports, but in everything," he proclaims in heavily American-accented Hebrew.

Brody was the backbone of the "winningest" team in Israeli sporting history. He galvanized a rare group of homegrown talents with NBA veterans, in the first of a string of successful Maccabi lineups. Maccabi Tel Aviv won the Championship Cup again in 1981 and reached, but lost, the European finals five times during the 1980s. Further European titles were to follow in 2001, 2004 and 2005. He was also an Israeli national team stalwart, scoring 1,219 points in 78 games.

Following the end of his basketball career at age 34, Brody turned to commerce, running a sporting goods importing business while conducting basketball clinics all over the country. He became a successful insurance agent, handling pension programs and provident funds for two decades. That, he says, was the second stage of his life.

The third stage of his life

"Two years ago, I handed my portfolios over to a large company so that I could go out and do public diplomacy - it's necessary now more than ever. With my 45 years in Israel, I can help other people see many beautiful things. All my life in Israel I've always been asked to speak about the country. I've maintained a relationship with the Jewish Agency and met with groups from Young Judea, Birthright and Nefesh B'nefesh. It's my pleasure to do it. I enjoy doing it, and try to give them a well-rounded view."

He also serves as chairman of the Spirit of Israel, a non-profit Jewish Agency subsidiary that raises funds from the Israeli public and creates awareness for Israel's social agenda. "This work is really important - we support children at risk in youth villages, homecare for elderly, things like that," he says.

Volunteering to simultaneously help several non-profit organizations has been an integral part of his life. The groups he helps include the state's central fundraising organization Keren Hayesod, and Migdal Or, which helps at-risk, impoverished, orphaned and underprivileged children. In 2004, he received the rare honor of lighting a torch at the 56th Independence Day ceremony as a mark of respect for his voluntary work.

And he is still very much involved at Maccabi Tel Aviv, as a member of the club's Board of Directors. "The team has brought a lot of honor to Israel. It has a good coaching staff - David Blatt does a great job as coach. It's a new team this year, with Tal Burstein and Lior Eliyahu coming back from Spain and a new Greek center [Sofoklis Schortsanitis]. It's going to take a while for them to get organized. There are still a few missing links and there could be a lot of ups and downs before they achieve consistency. They may have to switch a few players. It doesn't happen overnight. The team is good enough to get past the first round of this year's Euroleague. I hope they reach the Final Four," he says.

Brody has not forgotten that the Maccabiah first brought him to Israel, and serves as a board member of the Maccabi World Union that organizes the Games.

Brody recently returned from his first visit to the US as Goodwill Ambassador, where he shared his passion for Israel with students, organizations and media during a whistle-stop 20-day trip. "It started with a couple of fundraising evenings in private homes: A luncheon for Magen David Adom and another for the US Maccabiah 2013 delegation. I spoke in schools, community centers, synagogues, Christian communities.

"I tell them my story"

"I tell them my story about why I came to Israel, why I love Israel - relating everything that a lot of people don't hear. I speak about our culture, arts, sports, successes, not the things they see on the news. They see Israel as paramilitary. On the campuses especially, they only hear pro-Palestinian voices. I try to get a feeling about what is bothering them about Israel. I tell them that forming an opinion without being in Israel is not fair. They should come to Israel and see it for themselves," he says.

He also meets with Israelis living in the US, and has found that today the Jewish community in the States is very divided over Israel. "The new generation is less informed about Israel. It's important to get them involved, at least before they form an opinion," he explains.

During his talks, Brody addresses many controversial issues and he is not afraid to meet with groups that are not pro-Israel, or Jewish. "I've had to answer difficult questions, like about the security fence. I told them about the realities, and they understood. I also talked about Israel to the African-American community. I told them about African-American basketball players in Israel and the Ethiopian community. They didn't know there are black Jews. Many of these kids are going home and passing the message: 'Anthony Parker of Cleveland played for two years for Maccabi Tel Aviv - and he's one of us.' "

Brody also spent time in New England, where he hosted a basketball clinic in Roxbury, MA with the Boys and Girls Club of America. Back in Israel, as Goodwill Ambassador he has also met with visiting foreign dignities, including several US Senators. "Then there was the mission from the South African Zionist Federation," he adds.

"Israelis find the idea of a goodwill ambassador strange," he confides. "Israel doesn't have the funding for public diplomacy that our neighbors do. The amount of money being put into their propaganda is enormous. This leads to an unbalanced situation on the campuses. You can't take for granted the support from the Christian community either. In Boston, Miami and Washington [Israeli] consulates and the embassy are going out to do as much as they can in this respect. I'm going in to reinforce their presentation."
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Tal Brody interview

Postby rlee » Tue Mar 29, 2011 3:15 am

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Tal Brody still benefiting from leap of faith

Postby rlee » Fri Feb 15, 2013 12:53 am

Brody still benefiting from leap of faith
by Marcus Jackson
http://www.illinihq.com/sports/illini-s ... faith.html

NORTHBROOK — Inside a small boardroom, seated at the head of an oval wooden table inside the Jewish National Fund’s Chicago office, Tal Brody tells a story of why a 12th pick in the draft would pass on NBA fame to play point guard for a bottom-feeding, traditionless club in Israel.

It doesn’t make sense in today’s landscape.

The dozen JNF employees, who have taken a break from their daily responsibilities, bring extra chairs and crowd the table to hear Brody’s explanation.

They know that Jeremy Lamb, the 12th pick in last year’s NBA draft, is an instant millionaire despite spending the bulk of his rookie season with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA’s Development League.

They gasp when Brody, who was drafted by the Baltimore Bullets after an All-America season at Illinois in 1965, explains the average NBA salary when he came out was $30,000, maybe $40,000. The minimum was $12,000.

“Today, the average salary is about $5 million,” the 69-year-old Brody said. “Maybe if it was today, you’re the 12th pick in the NBA, $2.7 million, no-cut contract, I probably make a different decision.”

The choice he made changed his life — and the way of life and thinking throughout Israel.

***
While a Jewish kid from Trenton, N.J., debated whether to join the Bullets’ loaded backcourt that featured another former Illini — Don Ohl — as well as Kevin Loughery and Wali Jones, he traveled to Israel for the first time and led the U.S. to a gold medal in the Maccabiah Games — the Jewish Olympics.

Things were tough in Israel. The country was going through a recession; people weren’t smiling.

They enjoyed their hoops, though.

“The Israeli government approached me and said, ‘We think a guy like you can come to Israel and take our basketball maybe to a different level,’ ” Brody said.

Israeli Gen. Moshe Dayan, whose photo Brody carries in his wallet today, and other national leaders pleaded with him to join Maccabi Tel Aviv, a franchise that had never advanced past the first round of the European Championships.

Between bites of the Dunkin’ Donuts holes in the JNF boardroom, Brody likened the decision to choosing Illinois instead of one of the 40 other schools that aggressively recruited him out of Trenton Central.

“Harry Litwack was the coach at Temple; they really recruited me,” Brody said. “When he came to recruit me, he asked what I wanted to go to Illinois for. He told me I could be a big fish in a little pond in the Big Five conference.”

But Illinois was moving into the brand-new Assembly Hall and had a roster that was to feature Skip Thoren, Bogie Redmon, Darius Cunningham and Dave Downey. Brody, the playmaking point guard whose East Coast flair was coveted in Champaign-Urbana, was the perfect complement.

“I told Harry Litwack I wanted to try to be a big fish in a big pond. I wanted to take on that challenge,” said Brody, whose No. 12 Illinois jersey will be raised to the Assembly Hall rafters in a ceremony Wednesday during the Illinois-Purdue game.

***
Brody committed to a year in Israel, figuring the experience would be worth more than the league-minimum $12,000 he’d be making in the NBA.
Maccabi thrived with Brody running the show that first year, reaching the European championship.

In the meantime, Brody was writing notes to his former Illinois teammates in the U.S., describing how one game got rained out and another was played during a sandstorm.

“I write back again and I say, ‘Guys, you won’t believe this, we’re playing a game in the north of Israel near the Golan Heights and there’s a sandstorm. We’re playing, you can’t see the basket and we’re playing basketball there.’

“We go up to Jerusalem in the winter and you’re playing outdoors, it’s cold. It’s cold in Champaign-Urbana, but you’re not playing outdoors.”

As the Six-Day War, an eventual Israeli victory, was beginning after that first season with Maccabi Tel Aviv, Brody often would talk with Israeli soldiers. They told him the success of the basketball club gave them hope that the country could do anything.

Brody’s initial commitment to Maccabi Tel Aviv was for one year, but the results were so much that he agreed to stay on board.

“I saw what playing basketball was doing for the country,” he said.

The second year, Brody fell even more in love with the social life in Israel and was seeing more evidence that basketball was changing the country’s mood.

“We were playing against countries that were very anti-Semitic, but basketball was changing the opinions of people in Israel. They all of a sudden saw Israel in a different light,” he said. “Basketball became a sport that you could not get a ticket for. Levi Eshkol, the prime minister, had to beg for tickets to the game. Moshe Dayan became a friend of Maccabi Tel Aviv.”

***
Brody’s goodwill in Israel took a break after the second year as he received a draft notice to return to serve in the United States Army during Vietnam.

After Brody’s two years of service, Dayan and other Israeli dignitaries urged him to return.

“This impressed me so much that I said this was what I’m going to do,” Brody said.

So he returned in 1970. In 1977 he led Maccabi Tel Aviv to its first European League championship, beating a heavily favored Russian team in the semifinals that featured six players who were on the Russian team that beat the United States in the 1972 Olympics.

The Israelis and Russians did not have a diplomatic relationship. Because of this, the CSKA Moscow team refused to play Maccabi in Tel Aviv and refused to allow the Israeli team entry into Moscow.

The game was played at a neutral site in Virton near the Luxembourg border in Belgium.
Israeli fans turned out in droves to support Maccabi.

“We were just picked up with the emotion of everybody waving the Israeli flags and the Russians were shell-shocked. They even thought they were in Tel Aviv,” Brody said.

***
As Brody, dressed in a denim shirt, jeans and white sneakers, rocks back and forth in a squeaky chair that no one seems to mind, one JNF employee speaks up. “Is this when you made the famous quote?”

In his English-accented Hebrew, Brody delivered what’s considered to be the most famous phrase in Israeli history on television immediately following the game.

“ ‘We are on the map. We are staying on the map, not only in sports but in everything,’ ” Brody said. “I said it from my heart, went to the locker room and I didn’t realize what my words meant until the prime minister (Yitzhak Rabin) called our team to his office. He said, ‘Tal, you don’t know what this meant for the country at this time.’ ”

Maccabi would go on to defeat Italian club Mobilgirgi Varese to win the European title.

“People sold cows, took out loans from banks to see the finals of the European Championship,” Brody said.

When Maccabi Tel Aviv was the first non-American team honored by the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2008, Brody represented the franchise. The name of Maccabi’s exhibit in the Springfield, Mass., Hall of Fame is “Putting Israel on the Map: The Maccabi Tel Aviv Story.”

Brody retired from basketball in 1980 but continued the work he started in the mid-1960s.

A year before retiring, he was given the Israel Prize, the country’s highest civilian honor for his work in society and sports.

“I’ve enjoyed everything,” he said. “It was something bigger than an ego trip, and I just saw what was happening because of the game and what it meant for so many people. It’s been a beautiful ride for me.”

Brody, who was inducted into the International Jewish Hall of Fame in 1996 and the U.S. Jewish Hall of Fame in 2011, was named by Prime

Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the first international ambassador of goodwill for Israel.

The position calls for Brody to travel to North America and spread the word about what’s happening in Israel.

“I’m presenting to them what Israel is, the cultural life, the sports, technology, medicine and what the daily life is,” he said. “Very few people in the United States and the world, when you see news about Israel, you don’t see what Israel really is.”

***
Each year, Brody hosts a group of former professional basketball players in Israel to conduct basketball clinics and to experience the culture for themselves.

“You see trauma, war, people getting killed on the news,” said Brody, whose wife Tirtza lives in Israel along with his three children and grandchildren. “That’s not really Israel; we’re a stable country.”

Former Illini Stephen Bardo made the trip to Israel last summer to see firsthand the message Brody was sharing.

“He’s (Michael Jordan) over there,” Bardo said. “We went to watch a game and they introduced all of us former players, and then they introduced Tal and the place went crazy. He’s the equivalent of MJ. These are kids and their parents are pointing at him and educating their kids and saying, ‘That’s the father of Israeli basketball right there.’ What he’s been able to accomplish over there putting basketball on the map, he’s a great ambassador for the sport.”

Brody can’t walk the streets of Israel without being recognized. He’s so famous that his less-than-perfect Hebrew has been mocked on a television show similar to “Saturday Night Live.”

“They wait for me to mess up, especially the high school kids,” he said with a laugh. “They usually go after the politicians, the prime minister, but they get me sometimes. I’m OK with it.”

His fame extends beyond the streets of Israel.

Years after they left Illinois, Brody and his college roommate Don Freeman planned to meet in the middle of Times Square.

When they met, Freeman couldn’t believe the reception Brody received.

“He says, ‘Tal, I played ABA ball in the States, we played together at Illinois and we’re standing in the middle of Times Square and I can’t believe all these people are coming up to you asking for your autograph.’ ”

***
One of Brody’s projects in Israel was building a basketball school in Herzliya, where 1,000 boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 18 got to learn the game.

He’s viewed as a hero to many in Israel.

“I’m very balanced. I don’t get blown up by it,” he said. “I don’t think hero is the right word, but I utilize it for good.”

The dedication to the game is so strong that when Saddam Hussein was sending scud missiles into Israel, the students showed up every day wearing gas masks, ready to play ball.

“We didn’t know what was going on, whether there would be gas or not,” Brody said.

In Champaign, Brody’s good deeds are celebrated.

When Brody returns to campus this week to be honored, the Illini Chabad is hosting a reception for him at the iHotel.

“The idea that Tal was being recognized with his jersey being raised to the rafters is not only that it’s happening but the message that it sends to the youth today,” Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel of the UI Chabad Center for Jewish Life said. “We felt it would be wonderful for every person, a student, community member, professional, anyone to come and meet Tal personally.

“College campuses are the battleground for the next generation. The students of today are the leaders of tomorrow, so somebody like Tal, who not only was a leader as an athlete at Illinois but since he’s graduated, has taken on strong leadership for the sports world and a center of Jewish life in the Jewish world.”

Brody’s is the third Illinois jersey going up at the Assembly Hall this season. Mannie Jackson and Govoner Vaughn were recognized earlier.

“Mannie Jackson influenced the world basketball scene. All the guys up there were special. To be honored by Illinois, I think it’s great,” Brody said.

***
Brody is also a finalist this year for the Naismith Hall of Fame as one of 13 international nominees for induction. One player from the list, which also includes former NBA star Vlade Divac, will get a Hall of Fame nod. Brody will be on hand for that announcement at the NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 17 in Houston.

“Just to be one of those 13 guys is special,” he said. “Whoever gets it is going to be very deserving.”

Brody’s thankful for his time at Illinois.

“Illinois prepared me for life. Harry Combes, Howie Braun and Jim Wright were the three coaches. We used to go to high school award banquets and speak. By doing that, it gave me confidence in everything after that,” Brody said. “Whether it’s Harvard, UCLA, the White House, it gave me that confidence, and I’m always indebted to Illinois for that. I was shy coming to the Midwest from New Jersey. That was one of the greatest preparations for life that contributed to everything I’ve done after that and being in front of the public.”

Brody soon will turn 70. He’s in great health and plans on spreading his goodwill for as long as he’s capable.

“As long as I can influence the younger generation and they can enjoy the same way of life I did, I’ll be very, very thankful,” Brody said.
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Re: Tal Brody

Postby Goofy » Fri Feb 15, 2013 4:15 pm

Nice story. Had he played in the NBA, he could have been arguably one of the best Jewish players ever.
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