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Special Report Israel’s Hoopsters Get High Pay While Fans Tighten Belts

March 4, 1985
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

While government officials haggle over where to make further budget cuts and the general population is asked to bear some hardships as Israel tries to wrestle its economic problems under control, there remains one group of individuals who appear to be doing little belt tightening of their own.

They are Israel’s professional basketball players, whose salaries, while remaining below that of the ball players in the United States, nonetheless have soared. This development has left some observers in bewilderment and wonder.

In the National Basketball League, Maccabi Tel Aviv, remaining faithful to pre-season predictions, is leading the field in the standings with Hapoel Tel Aviv in second. Both clubs feature Israel’s best basketball players.

According to sources here, Maccabi’s operating budget for the year is $1 million while Hapoel’s operating cost is half that sum. The teams’ salaries to its basketball stars are reported to be approximately half of their operating budgets.

Maccabi, according to reliable sources, is paying their two most recent acquisitions from the U.S. — Lee Johnson and Kevin McGee — a total of $220,000. Mickey Bercovitz, a Maccabi star player for more than a decade, is reportedly earning a salary of $80,000 per year, with Maccabi paying two other starters each a minimum of $50,000 per year.

Hapoel, not to be outdone, pays around $70-$80,000 a year each to its two best ball players. Hapoel’s salary scale works its way down to $20,000, which is paid to their last man on the starting five.

Player salaries have risen here drastically in the past few years, to the point where Gary Wolff, the 19-year-old son of lawyer-agent Bob Wolff of Boston, has come here to dicker with Maccabi management for some of the players Wolff represents in the United States and who are just short of making the National Basketball Association.

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