While I was in high school Sports Illustrated ran a story about the “Jewish Jordan.” The man under that nickname is Tamir Goodman. Goodman got tons of publicity due to his scholarship to Maryland to play ball even if it meant not playing on Shabbat. Eventually, Goodman went to Towson University to play D1 ball without abandoning his religious beliefs. TGR had a chance to catch up with Goodman.
The Great Rabbino: What was it like being dubbed the “Jewish Jordan”?
Tamir Goodman: At the time I did not realize how important the Sports Illustrated article was. Once the attention to spread hit had a large impact on my Judaism and I wanted to use it for goodness. Ultimately, the article turned out not to be for or about me, but it was a way to use the media to inspire other Jewish kids. That is why I wore my Tefillin in the picture. I made sure I was in it. It became a tool to inspire others.
TGR: What exactly happened with Maryland and why did you end up not playing there? Were you happy at Towson?
Goodman: I was very happy at Towson. I only played there for one year but it was great. The reason I gave back the Maryland scholarship was because they wanted me to play on Shabbos. But I wanted to become the first observant Jew to play D1 basketball. At Towson I won the Coach’s Award for on and off court commitment. It was meaningful that Maryland won the National Championship that year. While I would have gotten a ring that day instead I got Shabbos forever.
TGR: I saw you drop 55 in the Yeshiva University tournament in high school. Did you ever contemplate playing for YU?
Goodman: Most young Jewish ballplayers think about playing there but my mission was to play D1 in America without playing on Shabbos. I did not want to settle. I love Yu and the tournament. I am in touch with them. The tournament is amazing and provided me an atmosphere similar to a college one.
TGR: Any message you have for young players who struggle with the idea of not playing top-level competition at a Jewish day school as opposed to a public school?
Goodman: Personally, I graduated from a Christian school. My mission and goal was to try sanctifying Hashem through basketball. I could’ve played anywhere. When making such a decisions it depends what basketball means to you. If it isn’t the biggest thing in your life, then a Jewish education is extremely important.
TGR: Has basketball ever gotten in the way of your Judaism? Are there ever moments where you think your Judaism helps you on the court or basketball helps you with your relationship with God?
Goodman: Basketball has helped me 100%. I always think about how God gave me this gift and why. Judaism teaches us that everything we do is for Hashem. We learn Jewish messages through basketball, no days off (during the work week), pushing yourself, and hard work. Judaism requires all of these things. I have a lot of Jewish pride wearing my kippah and tzizit on the court.
TGR: What are you up to these days? Anything we should know about Tamir Goodman these days?
Goodman: Last year I played in Haifa. I also started a company called Haifa Hoops, which helps under privileged and America’s Jewish youth through basketball. I have coach and taught over 24000 Jewish kids. Next year I will be back in Haifa either playing or working for them. I am currently battling an injury but I hope to feel better
TGR: I want to thank Tamir Goodman for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions. He clearly, has made his life a mission to help Jewish kids through basketball. For more information on Tamir check out his websites and the video below: