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Basketball SA Hall of Fame inductees: Les Hody

BASKETBALL SA after a long hiatus and inspired by events conducted by rival state associations, is re-launching its longstanding Hall of Fame and inducting its first list of candidates of the decade on Friday, February 7.

The gala event will be staged at the Stamford Plaza from 6:30pm to 10 and tickets can be purchased through this link.

Importantly, the list of inductees are a unique blend of the best in basketball in SA across the ages and it is our pleasure here to regularly reprint their back stories.

Get along on the night, which should be one to remember. And in the meantime, here is the first inductee.



Laszlo “Les” Hody is one of the greatest post-World War II success stories of international basketball, the first man to represent two different nations in Olympic Games and a legendary figure in both his native Hungary and in his adopted homeland of Australia.

Born in 1934 in Szeged, Hungary, his parents owned a shoe-manufacturing factory but with the Soviet takeover of the country after World War II, Les’ family were declared “enemies of the nation” - capitalists in a Communist country.

His parents were stripped of their assets, his father in-and-out of prison while a young Hody thrived at first division handball, basketball and volleyball. The Government forced him to choose one sport and fortunately, it was basketball.

At the 1951 European Basketball Championship, Hungary finished third and the decision made to select a younger team for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Hody was selected to represent Hungary as a 17-year-old at those Games in Helsinki.

Hungary missed the top eight, but took the Silver Medal a year later in the European Championship, Hody elevated to a starter’s role.

From 1952 to 1955, the Hungarian men’s team experienced a “golden age”, claiming the Gold Medal at EuroBasket 1955 in Budapest, the 6-4 Hody voted the best forward in Europe.

It all came crashing down suddenly in 1956 with the Hungarian Revolution which led to a harsh Soviet crackdown across the nation.

The Russian army brutally destroyed the Hungarian revolt, restored Communism by force, Les and his brother John fleeing to Vienna as refugees.

They migrated to Australia soon afterwards, arriving in Adelaide in March, 1957 and starting a Hungarian-orientated team, naturally called Budapest. Along with the Latvian teams, they quickly dominated South Australian basketball.

In 1960, Hody led Budapest into the first of four consecutive SA championship grand finals. While Budapest lost the 1960 grand final to the Latvian club A.S.K., Hody comfortably won the Woollacott Medal as the fairest and most brilliant player in the state’s top competition.

In 1961 and again in 1962, Budapest won the championships under Hody’s leadership, before losing in 1963 to South Adelaide and the Hall of Fame-bound Michael Ahmatt.

Now a naturalised Australian, Hody twice led South Australia at the Australian National Championship, the state winning both national titles.

In 1963, Hody moved to Victoria and, at 30 years of age, was selected on the 1964 Australian team to contest the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Twelve years earlier at the Helsinki Olympics, Hody was the youngest team member (for Hungary). In 1964 at the Tokyo Olympics, he was the oldest team member for Australia.

It was difficult time for Hody, the prospect of playing against Hungary, which also competed in Tokyo, particularly emotional. Fortunately, Hungary was in the rival pool and the two nations did not face off, though both completed intrapool play at the Games with identical 2-5 win-loss records.

The eventual ninth place achievement by Australia’s part-timers widely was lauded as the Boomers’ greatest performance to that point, Hody leading Australia in scoring with 14.7 points per game, no other Aussie averaging in double-figures. Hungary finished 13th of the 16 competing nations.

That 1964 Olympic team established Australia’s international reputation and laid the platform for Australia’s future direct entry into the Games via the Oceania Regional Championship.

Three years later when Budapest merged with Norwood in the South Australian “district” competition, Hody, as playing-coach of the new entity, led the team to the 1967 Summer Championship, beating South Adelaide in a classic grand final.

As a postscript to the Hody brothers’ departure from Hungary in 1956, his family continued to be penalised.

In 1958, the Communist Government granted the family visas to go to Vienna, then withdrew them the day before they were to leave.

Hody’s father was sent to prison with hard labour for one year, John and Les sentenced in absentia to three years prison for escaping from Hungary.

Six years later, their sentences were commuted and they were given amnesty. Times do change and countries change.

In 1995, Hody was awarded the “Gold Cross of the Hungarian Republic” one of that nation’s highest awards.

In 2005, he was awarded the “Gold Ring Insignia” of the Hungarian Republic for outstanding life achievement.

Finally in 2012 during the 100-Year Anniversary celebration of the Hungarian Basketball Association, Les Hody was made a “Legend” of Basketball and a cast of his hand is exhibited in the “Hall of Fame” in Budapest.

Jan 9

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