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On the Map Review

By David Kempler

Small, But On The Map

When you think of countries where basketball has a passionate fanbase, you might think of a few different European countries, or Brazil, and of course, the United States. Israel is probably not the first country that pops into your brain, but they do have a healthy basketball appetite. For a short while, in 1977, Israel was the center of the basketball map.

"On the Map," written and directed by Dani Menkin, is about an Israeli basketball team from Tel Aviv (partially comprised of Americans) that shined the brightest of all in the European Cup, a basketball tournament of great import outside of the United States. Menkin chronicles how the team came to be and how the political tone of the era played a role in how events unfolded.

One of the keys to the story is Tal Brody, a high school All Star basketball player from New Jersey, who went on to star at the University of Illinois. After graduation, he was the 12th selection in the NBA draft, so he was a talented player with great prospects. 


Before the NBA season, Brody went to Israel. There, he led the American team to a gold medal in the Maccabiah Games. He then made the life-altering decision to pass up the NBA and spend his life in Israel, playing for an Israeli team. Unsurprisingly, he was immediately their best player. In 1977, it all paid off for Brody and his team.

The story is told through archival footage of the games and news reports of that time. In addition, we hear from the players who participated as they look back at the highlights. There are also interviews with a few people, with NBA great Bill Walton stealing the show with his animated recollections of watching the unlikely scenario unfold.

"On the Map" is your typical David vs. Goliath sports upset. It's got the requisite thrills, although the footage is sparse and grainy. While there is nothing special about the production, it's got enough going for it to make it worth your time, if this sort of thing holds any interest for you. It's not going to be on the map of great documentaries, but it's not an unpaved driveway, either.

What did you think?

Movie title On the Map
Release year 2016
MPAA Rating NR
Our rating
Summary Documentary of an Israeli basketball team that won a European championship in 1977 isn't great, but it may be good enough.
View all articles by David Kempler
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