The weather is determined by the beautiful water of the Mediterranean Sea and in nights like tonight the ocean breeze makes you want to stay in Israel forever. A few shekels though is definitely worth the ride from the beach side restaurants to a game at the Nokia Arena. The game was Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Irony Ashkelon and Maccabi was coming off of a tough loss to Partizan that dashed their Euroleague Final Four dreams. The Nokia Arena is located right in the heart of Tel Aviv and is one of the more miraculous basketball venues you will find. Driving up you see the high glass walls starting to light up and then a rush of energy comes through you as you start your entrance inside. With its bright lights, giant round figure, and architecturally impressive glass walls, the Nokia Arena is stunning.
Inside I found what I have been craving since embarking across Europe to different stadiums, European basketball merchandise. I settle into my seat only to look around and see Derrick Sharp jerseys on toddlers, Chuck Eidson shirts for teens, Maccabi backpacks, and anything else a basketball hungry fan would want. Immediately I race out of my seat to find the nearest team store where I can start shopping like it’s the night before Hanukkah. Then as I shuffle through my head thinking about my budget, what player’s name I want to where on the back of my shirt, and hoping that they take credit card, I find my hidden temple.
A small store, but packed to the brim with any possible thing you could put “Tel Aviv” on. I swoop trying to find my apparel of choice until I notice a man printing stuff in the back and to my utmost pleasure he is personalizing shirt, jerseys, basically whatever you want. I have arrived at the Mecca of European basketball apparel. You will have to meet Slam and Freaknick in person to see our Maccabi fashion attire of choice. Beyond my utter thrill of being able to purchase some needed basketball clothing, there was a game going on too.
Irony Ashkelon did a great job sticking with Maccabi in the first half. They had a large lead for a lot of the first quarter behind some really impressive moves by Jimmy Baxter. Soon though his hot shooting was not enough for a deadly Maccabi attack. Alan Anderson and Doron Perkins decided to trade off possessions in the 2nd and the 3rd quarter to see who could top the other one on offense. Whether it was Maccabi’s offensive relentlessness, Ashkelon losing their legs, or the aura of all the banners they played below; Asheklon had really no defensive options to stop the Maccabi attack. It is the mystique of Tel Aviv in the Israeli league. If you look up into the rafters their title streak is amazing. It doesn’t matter what decade you look at, 60s,70s,80s,90s,now, Maccabi has been overly dominant. If they win 8 titles in a decade, it might be considered a down 10 years. Asheklon tried to wrestle the beast down, but ultimately this is Tel Aviv’s league and when they turn on the heat they can’t be cooled down.