While soccer remains the sport of the proletariat, basketball caters to a distinctly more cultured segment of the population in these parts. At soccer events, one waits for the fights, which are sure to come, particularly between fans of opposing teams. Basketball fans are a bit more laid back and the atmosphere at a game, especially that of long-time franchise winner Maccabi Tel Aviv, feels something like an NBA game.
As in soccer, the more successful, wealthier teams import talent from the U.S. and Europe, and Israel is a promising destination for young players, given the nation’s good record in the Euroleague, ULEB Eurocup and Eurochallenge. Some of Israel’s top local players have also played college ball in the U.S., and an Israeli player was recently drafted for an NBA team.
Women’s basketball is also popular. The Elitzur Holon team put the sport on the map in Israel, dominating women’s basketball by winning 19 consecutive League Championships from 1977 through 1996. Like the men’s league, the women’s teams have hosted players from abroad, including WNBA players looking for playtime during the off-season. Vickie Johnson, who played in the WNBA from its inaugural season in 1997, also played with Holon. Given that Holon is a satellite city of Tel Aviv with some 200,000 residents, the team is viewed as the pioneer of Israeli womens’ basketball.
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