The fans in the Maccabiah’s Basketball Masters tournament had a chance to see not only Israeli legends such as Miki Berkovich, Motti Aroesti, Doron Jamchi and Doron Shefa, but also a real American NBA star: Former LA Lakers player Norm Nixon who, together with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, won two NBA championships in the early 1980’s.

57-year old Nixon, whose days as an NBA All-star are long over, is coaching Australia’s Masters Basketball team. He got the job through his friend Peter Lowy.

“Peter asked me if I could help coach the Australian team and I said I’ll be delighted”.

“This is my first time visiting Israel, and the experience is amazing. I love seeing all the people and the athletes and the different cultures. I’m very impressed by the Maccabiah and how many people the different delegations sent here. The US team sent over 1,000 athletes and also Great Britain sent many hundreds of people...

simply amazing.

“We visited Jerusalem, Masada, the Golan Heights and this visit put me in perspective. When you visit a city like Jerusalem which was fought for by so many people for so long, you understand its significant for Israel and the whole Middle East.”

Nixon already played Danny Shays and Team USA before playing against Israel, who beat Australia 67-38.

Nixon’s team didn’t make it to the finals, but he said he was impressed with the Israeli team, who lost to Russia.

“You can tell the Israeli team played in the top European levels, they have great wisdom and game insight, they’re very experienced guys.”

The Australian Masters team and the rest of the teams compete in the basketball tournament held in Jerusalem, the final will take place in Givat Ze’ev this Sunday.

IN ISRAELI BADMINTON, IT ALL STAYS IN THE FAMILY The Maccabiah badminton tournament has ended and Israeli Olympian Misha Zilberman showed his quality by winning two gold medals in the men’s singles and the mixed-doubles (together with his mother). He would probably have won the gold in the men’s doubles as well, if his wasn’t for his Belarusian partner’s injury.

The most interesting match was the last in the tournament, the mixed doubles final between a mother & son (the Zilbermans) and a father & daughter (the Fugachs).

The Zilbermans are the most dominant family in Israeli badminton. The father, Michael, coached the Soviet national team. His wife Svetlana trained with him since the age of 12 and they got married and had Misha. Since childhood, Misha played badminton; he also represented Israel in the 2012 Olympics in London. His mother is his personal coach and his father is the head coach of Israel’s national team, so he is used to getting instructions from his parents on and off court.

When Misha teamed up with Svetlana for the mixed doubles, it wasn’t by chance. “We have a great relationship, she trained me well, in the game we communicate without speaking, and she’s not shouting instructions at me.”

Misha told us that badminton is a family sport, usually because the nearest partner is so accessible. “It’s really neat that sports help connect families.”

Facing the Zilbermans were the Fugach family. Leon, the father, was Svetlana Zilberman’s former partner in the mixed doubles event when they were younger. But now they compete against each other and lead the next generation of Israeli badminton. Leon’s daughter, Lea, won the Maccabiah women’s event and is a female Olympic hopeful for Rio 2016.

Leon and his daughter are playing together as partners since 1997. “We play and train together since Lea was 14, we have great chemistry and recently she started instructing me.”

This is the first time two families face each other in a Maccabiah final. In the end, the Zilbermans had the upper hand, winning 21-15 and taking the gold.

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