A member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, the U.S.-born Brody was Israel's first modern day sports hero. After a stellar career at the University of Illinois, Brody went to Israel for the Maccabiah Games in 1965 and was persuaded to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv. In 1970, he made Aliyah, and became an instructor at the Wingate Institute of Physical Education. In 1977, Brody led Maccabi-Tel Aviv to the European Cup Championship. Since the mid-1980s, Tal has formed basketball programs in Israel and was a liason between the NBA and Maccabi Tel Aviv. The Israeli team played numerous exhibition games against NBA teams.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. August 30, 1943
Born in Trenton, New Jersey, Brody was an All-State performer at Trenton Central High School and led the team to the state title in 1960. After entertaining numerous scholarship offers, Brody attended the University of Illinois and became a star. In 1963, he was the only sophomore starter as the Illini captured the Big Ten title (11-3) and finished 19-5 overall (No. 5 UP, No. 8 AP). In the NCAA tournament, the Illini defeated Bowling Green in their first game by a score of 70-65 (Brody scored three points). In the Mideast Regional Final, Illinois then lost to eventual national champions Loyola (Chicago), 79-64, as Brody scored six points and grabbed five rebounds. Illinois would not return to the postseason until 1980.
Although the Illini did not play as well in 1964, finishing sixth in the Big Ten with a record of 6-8 (13-11 overall), Brody was named All-America honorable mention. The following year, Illinois improved to a third place finish in the conference with a record of 11-3 (18-6 overall) and Brody was named second team All-America, first team All-Big Ten, and one of the best college players in the country. 1965 was also the year that Brody began his life-long love affair with Israel. At the Maccabiah Games, he led the U.S. team to the gold medal, and impressed Israeli officials with his talent. They tried to persuade him to remain in the country and help develop Israeli basketball, but Tal declined. Drafted by the Baltimore Bullets as the 13th overall pick in the 1965 NBA Draft, Brody returned to the U.S. He did not sign with the Bullets after a contract dispute, and instead chose to pursue a master's degree at Illinois.
In 1966, Brody was approached again to play in Israel and he agreed to spend the 1966-67 season with Maccabi-Tel Aviv. That year, he led his club to a surprise second-place finish in the European Cup Championships (they had never advanced past the first round before his arrival). Named Israel's "Sportsman of the Year," Brody remained in Israel for the 1967-68 season, but was then drafted into the U.S. Army. This was during the Vietnam War, but luckily Brody's service consisted of playing basketball on an All-Army and All-Armed Forces team. After leading Israel to its first gold medal in basketball at the 1969 Maccabiah Games, Brody returned to Israel permanently in 1970 and made Aliyah.
Over the next ten years, Brody played for Maccabi-Tel Aviv, helped them become the top club in Israel and one of the best in Europe. Besides his talent, Brody brought modern techniques to Israeli basketball and helped build the foundations for the country's success in international competition. In 1977, he helped Maccabi Tel-Aviv achieve the greatest international sporting achievement in Israel's history to that point. They defeated Italy's Mobil Girgi to win the European Cup Championship (they had defeated the mighty Red Army team of the Soviet Union in the semifinals). During his career, Brody led Maccabi Tel-Aviv to ten Israeli Championships and six Israeli State Cups.
In 1979, Brody was awarded the Israel Prize, the country's highest civilian honor. In 1996, the University of Illinois named him 'Man of the Year,' an honor given to an Illinois graduate athlete every year. In April 1998, the Israeli newspapar Ma'ariv ranked Tal the Israeli sports figure who most influenced sport in Israel, and ranked him among the top five Israeli basketball players of all time. Brody is also a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Trenton, New Jersey
Brody played at the University of Illinois, 1963-1965.
Use links below to navigate through the basketball section of Jews In Sports.
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)