LittyHoops in Israel

There are two professional basketball teams in Israel. Maccabi Tel Avivi and Hapoel Tel Aviv. I have good stories about both teams and I’ll be kind enough to share with you.

Maccabi - Maccabi Tel Aviv is akin to the New York Yankees of Israeli basketball (money and domination). Fans either love them or hate them. They have won the Israeli league like 20 out of the last 21 seasons and have also won the Champions Euroleague the last two seasons. This past fall they even beat the Toronto Raptors in an exhibition game (first time an NBA team lost to a non-NBA team in a long while). Maccabi gets all the best Israeli players and also has some of the best Americans in Europe (Will Solomon from Clemson and Anthony Parker). Isn't it great that there is a black dude on the team with the last name of Solomon. Last year their star was Jesekevich (sp?) who now plays on the Pacers.

I was real pumped to see a Maccabi game and set out yesterday afternoon to do just that. I left Beyda's apartment at 3 p.m. with the intention of going for a stroll, coming back to the apartment and then taking a cab to the stadium. I started walking into Tel Aviv and then just figured I would get something to eat, finish my book and walk to the game. Bad move. I walked for about 2 hours (those 4 inches on the map sure did take a long time to traverse) and I got myself real lost (started to have visions of fining myself wondering into a Palestinian outpost hanging from my feet -- no, Israel is not like that and you don't just stumble into an Arab stronghold.) Let Bygons be Bygons (don't know what bygon means by itself but when you put them side by side I'm golden), I jumped in a cab and got to the stadium a few minutes before tip-off.

This was a Israeli league game (as opposed to an euroleague game) so nobody cares. There were only about 2,000 people in the 10,000 person stadium and wasn't really much energey or excitement in the crowd. Maccabi had doubled up their opposition by halftime and went on to cruise by a 30 point margin. The basketball is somewhere between the college and pro level, and I left kind of unimpressed.

Hapoel Tel Aviv - This is the workers team and is also the team of one Mr. Marcus Hatten -- the inspiration for Littyhoops itself. Hapoel has fallen on hard times and recently announced plans to tear down their barn box of a stadium to play in the same arena as Maccabi. Unfortunately, the fanatical Hapoel fans aren't having any of this and they are boycotting all Hapoel home games. How do I know all this you might ask, well I could have looked it up on the internet (http://www.answers.com/topic/hapoel-tel-aviv-basketball?method=6). But no, I Littyhoops got the scoop in person.

To get from Beyda's apartment in Ramat Aviv to downtown Tel Aviv it is about a 25 minute walk. Each time I make this journey I pass by this shitty rundown gym, with a bunch of signs and graffiti and about 20-30 people standing outside protesting. Once I realized that these were the Hapoel Ultras fans, I went down to investigate.

Trip #1
I stare and stare and stare and try and figure out what is going on. I don't dare go down to talk to these people because who knows what they are protesting...last thing I need is to get into some occupied land rally. I have a suspicion is has something to do with Hapoel Tel Aviv but not really sure.

Trip #2
After some detective work on the internet I assume that this is the old stadium they are tearing down. I walk up to a kid and start talking about it with him. He was telling me about how a new owner bought the stadium, doesn't give a shit about the fans, and is getting money from the city to move so they can tear it down and build a park. The fans protest outside of the gym, and are doing anything possible to keep the city from tearing it down -- including boycotting Hapoel home games. They do go to all the road games and were planning to trek up to the Golan Heights that night for a game.

More Importantly, I ask about Marcus Hatten. His reaction is lukewarm. Says Hatten can score, but shoots too much, is inconsistent, and that the team has no chance unless he is on fire. I try to tell him about what he did to the likes of Duke, Georgetown, UConn and Rutgers, but he doesn't feel me. I tell him Hatten is clutch and will lead them to a Championship but he says that Hapoel is a bunch of losers just like the New York Knicks. Jeez!

Trip #3
After going to the Maccabi game I get the idea that I need a Hapoel Hatten jersey with his name in Hebrew. Unfortunately, Hapoel lost the night before so not sure how friendly these guys are going to be. I pick my target, a young kid carrying a basketball hoop and ask him a few questions...

LHoops: Why are they tearing down the stadium (ice-breaker)
Israeli: Because they are all Nazis (keeps on walking)
LHoops: You like Marcus Hatten?
Israeli: Nah, he isn't good, maybe ok (keeps on walking)
LHoops (scrambling to keep up): How can i get his jersey?
Israeli: (icey stare and no response)

Guess the Israeli hatten jersey is going to have to wait. It has broken into my top 5 of jersey's I must have

1) 92-93 Malik Sealy Home St. John's jersey (#21)
2) 93-94 Serge Zwikker Carolina blue UNC jersey
3) 05-06 Marcus Hatten Hapoel Tel Aviv jersey (hebrew lettering)
4) 00-01 Ron Artest #15 St. John's jersey
5) 02-03 Rickey Paulding Missouri jersey


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