The greatest Israeli sporting moments of the decade: No.1 - Derrick Sharp's magical triple makes history

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December 31, 2009 04:59

The greatest Israeli spo

3 minute read.



How does one rank moments? Unlike athletes or teams, moments are not comparable in any meaningful way. Ask 10 Israeli sports fans for their top moment of the past decade and you will likely get 10 different answers. Nevertheless, we decided to try and select the top five, and after much deliberation came to one unavoidable conclusion. Each and every one of our selections had something very special about them, but there was still one moment which surpassed all the others. Alex Averbukh's tears at the Olympic Stadium in Munich in 2002 may have been touching and it will also be a long time before we will forget Israel's stunning progress to the Davis Cup semifinals this year. It may even take several decades until we see another Israeli soccer team emulate what Hapoel Tel Aviv did in its 2001/02 UEFA Cup campaign and who knows when "Hatikva" will next be played at the Olympic Games as it was after Gal Fridman's triumph in 2004. However, there was one moment in particular in the past decade that seemed to epitomize all that is wonderful about sports. One of the main attractions in sports is the knowledge that anything is possible. It may only happen rarely, but the unexpected and unlikely is what keeps us watching until the final whistle. Any sports fan knows how rare such moments are, the ones where you are left gasping for air while holding your head in disbelief. That was the collective reaction of anyone who witnessed Derrick Sharp's incredible buzzer-beating three-pointer on the night of April 8, 2004. It was a basket which not only forced overtime, but changed the course of Israeli sports and eventually resulted in back-to-back Euroleague titles for Maccabi Tel Aviv. It is still difficult to believe the amazing set of circumstances which ended with Sharp's tears of joy. Maccabi entered the game knowing it had to beat Zalgiris Kaunas at the Nokia Arena to book a return trip to its home court for the Euroleague Final Four a few weeks later. With 2.2 seconds remaining, the Lithuanians were leading 94-91 and guard Giedrius Gustas was standing on the free-throw line preparing to take two shots. Up until that moment Gustas had scored all 17 of his free-throw attempts during the Euroleague season. As long as he scored one of the next two efforts, Maccabi would be out of the Final Four in Tel Aviv. It also seemed all but certain that Tel Aviv would lose even if he missed both throws as the clock would start running as soon as someone took the rebound and Maccabi would not have enough time to attempt a reasonable shot. However, not only did Gustas miss both attempts, but Zalgiris forward Tanoka Beard inexplicably entered the paint while his teammate's shot had yet to reach the basket and Maccabi was given the ball from under its own basket for one last chance. Even at this stage Maccabi still needed a minor miracle to avoid defeat, and what followed has become the stuff of mythology. Gur Shelef hurled the ball the length of the court in Sharp's direction and the 1.83-meter guard jumped higher than any other player to catch it in midair. Sharp took one bounce and another step before scoring exactly as the buzzer sounded. Tel Aviv would go on to beat Zalgiris in the overtime before triumphing in the Final Four, thrashing Skipper Bologna 118-74 in the title game. Maccabi conquered all before it in the following season, winning its final 10 Euroleague games of the campaign and beating Tau Vitoria 90-78 in the final in Moscow to cement its place as one of the best European basketball teams of the decade. None of the above, however, would have occurred had it not been for Sharp's three-pointer, the final act in an extraordinary chain of events. Moments may be impossible to rank, but all those watching on April 8, 2004 were treated to a glimpse of the power of sports, and that is simply priceless.


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