Basketball Star Shines on the Big Screen

By Nathan Burstein

Published January 08, 2009, issue of January 16, 2009.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Talk about a role reversal: It’s a Jew barking orders at the Germans in an upcoming Israeli movie, though much of the shouting is restricted to a basketball court.

WELL PLAYED: A new film tells the story of Israeli basketball coach Ralph Klein.
WELL PLAYED: A new film tells the story of Israeli basketball coach Ralph Klein.

“Playoff,” a Hebrew-language biopic now in the early stages of development, will tell the unlikely story of an Israeli basketball coach recruited to head the West German national basketball program in the early 1980s. Like the best movies of its genre, the film revolves around a real-life underdog and his hard-won success — in this case, Ralph Klein, a Jewish basketball player born in Berlin in 1931 and saved from the Holocaust, along with part of his family, by the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. After immigrating to Israel in 1951, Klein played under the Hebraized name Raphael Ram on the only Israeli basketball team ever to compete in the Olympics — the squad lost both its games, in Helsinki in 1952 — before embarking on one of the most successful coaching careers in Israeli basketball history. In 1983, six years after leading Maccabi Tel Aviv to its first-ever European title, Klein accepted an invitation to return to his birth country as a coach. He led the West Germans to an eighth-place finish at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and to a fifth-place finish the following year at the European championships.

The film, to be produced by Israel’s telecommunications company HOT, will focus on the coach’s years as head of West Germany’s basketball program and is scheduled to arrive in Israeli theaters by the end of the year. Filmmakers working on the movie include veteran producer Moshe Edery, the force behind such recent Israeli crowd-pleasers including “Walk on Water” and “Turn Left at the End of the World.” He was also the executive producer of “Beaufort,” the country’s 2008 Oscar nominee in the foreign language film category.

Klein, who received the Israel Prize in 2006, died in August 2008.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.