The Passion of the Maccabi: The tears of God

Updated: August 2, 2004, 1:03 PM ET
By Chad Ford | NBA Insider
TEL AVIV, Israel -- Maybe God does play favorites when it comes to basketball.

After the trial by fire. After hope came when all hope was lost. After miracles shaped like orange basketballs fell from the heavens. After years of yearning, praying and believing, Israel got its Euroleague championship Saturday night.

Maccabi Tel Aviv won it in epic, even biblical proportions.

Maccabi blasted Skipper Bologna in the Euroleauge championship game, 118-74. In the process, they shattered almost every record in the Euroleague books. The performance was, in a word, perfect. Almost God-like.

Maccabi scored more points than any team in a Euroleague Final. In fact, they were the first Euroleague champs to break 100. Their 44-point margin was the largest in the history of the event. They nearly doubled the record for most assists with 31. Most amazingly, they shot a stunning 74 percent on two-point shot attempts, missing just 10 from inside the arc, and 61 percent on 3-pointers (14 of 23).

After the game, a stunned Skipper coach, Jasmin Respa, couldn't find the words, muttering "impossible" several times as he looked over the stat sheet.

Maccabi coach Pini Gershon wasn't as surprised. "Everything is written in the sky. ... People prayed all week for us to win the cup, and I thank all of you, because your prayers helped. Thank you, Israel."

Outside, an Israeli security guard hugged another guard and then summed up the mood of much of the country Saturday night. "God not only gave us the victory ... he decided to show off."

As 10,000 joyous Maccabi fans flooded into the streets to join another 300,000 revelers in a downtown park in Tel Aviv, drops of salty, warm rain began falling from the sky.

"The tears of God," a young Israeli called it.

Chad Ford

ESPN Senior Writer