Star basketball player Miki Berkovich to receive Israel Prize

Gavriel Fiske is a reporter at The Times of Israel

File: Former Israeli basketball player Miki Berkovich in 2021 (YouTube screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
File: Former Israeli basketball player Miki Berkovich in 2021 (YouTube screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Legendary Israeli basketball player Miki Berkovich is to receive the Israel Prize in the category of outstanding athletic achievement, the government announces.

Berkovich, 70, had a long and distinguished career with Maccabi Tel Aviv, leading it to two Euroleague championships in the late 1970s and early 80s. During his time with Tel Aviv it dominated Israel’s premier league, winning 16 national championships. He also was a part of several Israeli national teams, notably the squad that won a gold medal at the 1974 Asian Games, held in pre-Islamic Revolution Iran.

His contract with Maccabi in the late 70s prevented him from accepting offers from NBA teams, and he later played for Maccabi Rishon Lezion, Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Tel Aviv before retiring in 1995.

Berkovich is “an inspirational role model” and “a legend in Israeli sports due to his tremendous and extraordinary achievements in the field of basketball, on both a personal and national level, and is considered the greatest Israeli basketball player of all time,” the Education Ministry, which oversees the Israel Prize, said in its official statement.

The Israel Prize is handed out during the national Independence Day ceremony, which this year falls on May 14. The event is to be held this year in Sderot instead of Jerusalem, the latest twist in a series of controversies around this year’s prize, which at one point saw the regular categories removed in favor of two newly created war-related awards. The former have now been restored alongside the new prizes.

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