Tal Brody is Israel's first modern-day sports hero. A University of Illinois All America in 1965, Brody joined the Maccabi-Tel Aviv team after leading his United States team to a gold medal in the 1965 Maccabiah Games.
In 1967, the New Jersey-born basketball star was named Israel's Sportsman of the Year after leading the Maccabi-Tel Aviv team to a second place finish in the European Cup Basketball Championships. In 1969, he took Israel to its first Maccabiah Games basketball gold medal. In 1970, Brody officially “made Aliyah” — became a citizen of Israel.
In what was then the State of Israel's greatest international sporting achievement, Brody led his 1977 Maccabi team to the European Cup Championship. In Israel's quest for the title, competition on the court occasionally needed to surmount political intrigue. At the height of the Cold War and a Soviet boycott of Israel, the Middle East champions were matched against ZSKA Moscow (the Red Army team), champions of the Soviet Union and winners of the four previous European Cups. The Soviets refused to play their semifinal match versus Maccabi in Tel Aviv and would not allow the Israelis to come to Moscow. Virton, Belgium, was selected as a neutral site, but the location did not help the Bolsheviks. Brody's Maccabi team triumphed 91-79.
The championship contest against Italy's Mobil Girgi was held in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, also a communist country at the time. The El Al plane that delivered Maccabi-Tel Aviv to the event was the first Israeli plane permitted to land in the country. “The little team that could” won the tournament of 23 national champion teams by defeating Italy's best 78-77, to capture the European title.
During his playing career, Brody's Maccabi-Tel Aviv teams won 10 Israeli championships and 6 Israeli State Cups.
At the University of Illinois, the 6'11/2“ guard won All Academic honors in 1965. That year, he was the thirteenth pick overall and number 2 selection of the Baltimore Bullets in the NBA draft, but opted to return to Illinois for his masters degree. That summer, he was selected to the U.S. Maccabiah team and traveled to Israel for the first time. One year later, he accepted an offer by Maccabi-Tel Aviv to play with the Israeli team.
In 1968, Brody was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served primarily on the All-Army and All-Armed Forces basketball teams. His U.S. Armed Forces team finished third in the World Championships in Belgrade.
In 1979, Brody was awarded the Israel Prize, the country's highest civilian honor.