Miki Berkovich (left) and Tal Brody celebrate after winning the European Cup in 1977. Miki Berkovich (left) and Tal Brody celebrate after winning the European Cup in 1977. Mickey Berkovich (left) and Tal Brody (right) celebrate after winning the European Cup in 1977. (Photo: Shmuel Rahmani)

Player on team that pulled off one of basketball’s greatest upsets makes Hall of Fame

Mickey Berkovich joins FIBA class with NBA greats Shaquille O'Neal and Tony Kukoc.

Forty years ago this summer, Mickey Berkovich made history. And he's about to do it again when he gets inducted into the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Hall of Fame next month.

The 6-foot-4 shooting guard is considered by many to be the greatest Israeli basketball player of all time. After playing for UNLV during his college career, Berkovich went on to join Israel's Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball club in the 1970s and 1980s. During his years playing with Maccabi, he won 19 national championship titles.

Perhaps the most storied chapter of his career, though, came during the 1977 European Basketball Championship. During that season, the scrappy upstart team had, against all odds, beaten the leading Soviet team and showed the world that miracles do happen. They went on to play against the highly favored champions of Italy, who had already defeated the Israeli team twice that season. The game was close, and went down to the final seconds. In the end, Berkovich and his team won the championship 78-77.

Dubbed the "Miracle on Hardwood," the game was summed up by NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton like this: "It is easily one of the greatest sporting accomplishments ever."

The team reunites 40 years later: (Back row) Moti Aresti, Lou Silver, Auclie Perry, Shuki Schwartz. (Front row) Miki Berkovich, Tal Brody, Aryeh Davidesco and Ruti Klein (one of the player's widows).The team reunites 40 years later: (Back row) Moti Aresti, Lou Silver, Auclie Perry, Shuki Schwartz. (Front row) Mickey Berkovich, Tal Brody, Aryeh Davidesco and Ruti Klein (one of the players' widows). (Photo: Aner Gera)

Tal Brody, the captain of the team, recalled that fateful night during a recent interview with From The Grapevine. "When we won the championship," he told us, "when I picked up that trophy, I was like picking up the whole country on my shoulders." At that moment, he uttered a phrase that would reverberate in the annals of sports history: "We are on the map!"

A movie called "On the Map," which followed Berkovich and his team on their journey during that momentous year, was one of several highly regarded sports documentaries that came out last year.

Besides Berkovich, NBA greats Shaquille O’Neal and Tony Kukoc will also be inducted at the Sept. 30 ceremony in Switzerland. In total, basketball personalities from seven different countries across three continents make up this year's class.

In addition to those players, FIBA will also be honoring the original USA "Dream Team" that took the court at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. It featured such legendary players as Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan. Regarded as the greatest team ever assembled, the team defeated its opponents by an average of 44 points on their way to eventually winning the gold medal. 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of their historic win.

Known as the "Dream Team," the won the gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics.Known as the "Dream Team," USA basketball won the gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics. (Photo: YouTube)

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