Tag Archives: Hall of Fame

Jew of the Week: Mickey Berkowitz

Israel’s Greatest Athlete

Moshe Berkowitz (b. 1954) was born in Kfar Saba, Israel. At the young age of 11, he joined the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball youth club. Within a few years, he made the junior team, and at just 17 years old, was already playing on the senior team in the Israeli Basketball Premier League. The same year, he took the Israeli under-18 team to the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) European Championship finals, and was the overall leading scorer of the whole tournament. Shortly after, he led the national team to a gold medal in the 1974 Asian Games in Tehran. This came at a time when Israel was still reeling from the devastating Yom Kippur War, and Berkowitz became a symbol of Israeli strength, success, and vitality. He has since been credited with playing a key role in re-inspiring Israeli youth in the wake of the war.

In 1975, Berkowitz took a short break to play a year of college basketball in the US (with the top-seeded UNLV Runnin’ Rebels). Returning to Maccabi, he transformed the team into a top contender, and in 1977 led Maccabi to its first FIBA European Cup. The team won the championship again in 1981, with Berkowitz scoring the winning shot. He also played on five European All-Star teams, and made history when his Maccabis beat the NBA champion Washington Bullets in 1978, becoming the first FIBA team to ever beat an NBA team. Back home, too, Maccabi was an unstoppable force, with Berkowitz leading the club to 16 national league championship titles and another 13 Israeli State Cups. After a silver medal at the 1979 EuroBasket (and being voted the tournament’s MVP), Berkowitz got flooded with offers from the NBA. However, he was unable to break his Maccabi contract and was forced to stay in the Israeli league. In 1991, Berkowitz was voted among FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players of all time, and more recently made the list of 50 Greatest EuroLeague Contributors. He officially retired in 1995 and wrote a bestselling autobiography. Last year, Berkowitz was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame alongside Shaquille O’Neal and several other greats. In the run-up to Israel’s 70th birthday, he was voted the nation’s greatest athlete. Despite being ranked the 35th most famous Israeli, and once being hailed as “king of Israel”, Berkowitz always carried himself with utmost humility and was a natural role model. Two of his sons continue to play pro-basketball in Israel today.

Words of the Week

The thought, the inspiration, and the culture of the Jews has been one of the vital dominants in world history. There are none of the arts or sciences which have not been enriched by Jewish achievements.
– Winston Churchill

Jews of the Week: Sandy Koufax & Ryan Braun

Best Baseball Players in the World

Sandy Koufax

Since the very beginnings of baseball, the sport has been dominated by great Jewish players: Hank Greenberg, Buddy Myer, Al Rosen, Ken Holtzman and many more. Perhaps most famous of all is Sandy Koufax, the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time, who actually started out as a basketball player in Brooklyn. The first person to win the Cy Young Award (for best pitcher) three times, he was also the league MVP in 1963. Koufax’s shining moment was when he refused to play the first game of the World Series because it was on Yom Kippur. He came back to lead his trailing team to the World Series victory, which earned him the Sportsman of the Year Award. Forced to retire at the young age of 30 due to arthritis, he became the youngest player ever to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Interestingly, Koufax’s last name at birth was Braun, like this year’s baseball MVP Ryan Braun, nicknamed “The Hebrew Hammer”. The son of an Israeli, he has recently said, “I am Jewish… I’m extremely proud to be a role model for young Jewish kids.”

Words of the Week

Ryan Braun

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.
– Gandhi