About 50 years leading the Israel powerhouse Maccabi, Shimon Mizrahi is a man that made the history of basketball and sport, not only for his country. He was loved from his fans and discussed from the rivals, as it happens to the greatest. He is so important that The Israel High Court of Justice confirmed the Israel Prize for Sports, which he was awarded in 2011: no room for who disagreed on that award. In 2007 he was chosen by Time Magazine as nr 16 in a list of the best sports executives alla around the world. He was chosen before David Stern, commissioner NBA…
He did so much for his Maccabi, but make it too for Israel basketball, limiting the number of foreign players, or on the Final Four system instead of the best-of-five finals. He won a lot and 6 european titles show perfectly how competitive this man is.
Shimon Mizrahi is simply a basketball legend and having the opportunity to meet him is great honor for people who have a basketball addiction.
In almost 50 years you faced Olimpia Milan several times: which are you best memories about this rivalry?
«So many memorable moments, great palyers, great games. It’s not easy to choose a single moment».
We go back to 1987 and 1988: two Finals and two titles for Milan in Lausanne and Gand…
«What an unbelievable team was Olimpia Milan. I just met Dan Peterson and gave him a warm hug. He was basic part of that rivalry and made history of this game. It’s a rivalry that continued and I have a great memory of what happened in 2014, the Playoff won against Milan and the Final 4 with the Euroleague we won in this arena».
I was lucky to be in the locker room in Gand, 1988, when Miki Berkowitz came to give credit to Olimpia players and gave a long, sensible hug to Dino Meneghin. That moment showed me respect, dignity and love for the game. Maybe the best moment I lived in basketball. Do you see actually any players that can possibly repeat what those guys represented?
«You know, so many things changed. Rules changed, the game itself changed as well as its organization. It’s hard to find men who can repeat what giants like Miki and Dino did. They are in the list of the greatest of all times. Nowadays most of the players change team every season so that it’s almost impossible».
Is Maccabi trying to build a renewed national identity on the team?
«Yes we do and we daily work on it. We have to build on young players but we play competitions like this Euroleague that ask us to be competitive now, so it’s a long process we have to trust. We want people that feel pride and honor wearing Maccabi jersey».
Jasikevicius, Parker, Burstein, Vujcic, Baston: it sounds like a melody for people who love basketball and something more for Maccabi fans. Is that 2004 team the best ever?
«Yes!» (no hesitation with a huge smile)
Your smile show me immense love for that team: something particular about those guys?
«Anthony Parker. A great player, a true champ but even more than that a very special man, an extraordinary human being».
I’m a bit curious… two years ago I met David Blu in New York and he told me, smiling, that when Maccabi plays abroad everybody is wearing yellow and blue, while in Israel the situation is different, so many hate Maccabi: can you confirm me?
«Well the fact is that everybody wants to play for Maccabi so that all the opponents give their best against us.. Ok, it was a pleasure, but now I have to focus on the game we have to play».
Well, the pleasure it’s mine, as well as the honor to talk to a basketball legend. The great attention to the small details of the game, such as what happened when he correctly talked to his bench about something to clarify with refs about scoring and fouls perfectly shows the man, which is still the same fierce competitor that took care of Maccabi in 1969 and brought the club to the highest level for decades.
Unfortunately the imminence of the game din’t allow us to ask him about a possible comparison between David Blatt and Pini Gershon, but you know, next game is always the most difficult so we well understood the focus of Mr. Mizrahi on Milan.
The usual yellow tie and scarf stood behind the basket, close to his bench, close to his Maccabi. Forever.