New Jersey-born Tal Brody starred in basketball at the University of Illinois and was selected 12th overall in the NBA draft before he became Israel’s “Mr. Basketball.” He was the captain of the Maccabi Tel Aviv team that, in a watershed moment for Israeli athletics, defeated the heavily favored Soviet CSKA Moscow squad on a neutral court in Belgium in 1977 en route to Maccabi’s European basketball championship.
“We are on the map. And we are staying on the map — not only in sports but in everything,” Brody famously told a television interviewer after the victory over CSKA Moscow.
Before that feat—which became known as the “miracle on hardwood”— Brody passed up an NBA career to make aliya in 1965. He guided Maccabi Tel Aviv to 10 Israeli basketball championships.
In more recent years, Brody has used sports as a vehicle for bringing Israelis together, creating Israeli-American bonds, and enhancing Israel’s global image as an Ambassador of Goodwill for the State of Israel.
After retiring from basketball, Brody founded the Bnei Herzliyah sports program, which has trained and inspired 9,000 participants across two successive generations of athletes. His philanthropic efforts include funding after-school basketball programs; constructing one of the world’s largest basketball academies; and becoming the sports ambassador for Migdal Ohr and the America-Israel Friendship League, which have together served hundreds of thousands of Israeli children.
Brody is a past recipient of the Israel Prize — the Jewish state’s highest honor — for his excellence in his field and his contributions to Israeli culture, and also was awarded the Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Zion Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.