An Interview with Tamir Goodman, the “Jewish Jordan”
Added by Matthew Hochberg on May 2, 2013.
Tamir Goodman, once dubbed by Sports Illustrated as the “Jewish Jordan”, captivated national attention at just 16 years old, sparked by his talent on the basketball court and his faith in God off the court. In his junior year, he was ranked the 25th best high school basketball player in the country, and averaged an outstanding 38 points that season. He attended a Yeshiva, the Talmudic Academy of Baltimore, until his senior season, and verbally committed to the University of Maryland before eventually attending Towson University. To find out more about Goodman, read below, as he takes us on his journey in an exclusive interview for DoubleGSports.com.
Photo via TamirGoodman.com
Matthew Hochberg: How did you originally begin playing basketball? Is it something you picked up on your own, or did it run in your family?
Tamir Goodman: My older brothers played and kind of took me into the gym and showed me the game. I never left it after that. I fell in love with the game at a very young age. I was very lucky. I was able to begin learning from Coach Chaim Katz at a very young age. I had family support, and coaching support.
Matthew Hochberg: Did you ever feel like you had something to prove, considering the lack of highly recruited Jewish basketball players?
Tamir Goodman: I don’t think so. My goal was to just play with the right intentions. I played for something bigger than myself. I tried to represent the Jewish people, and Israel. I tried to reach my potential. All of this allowed me to have strong focus as well.
I am also dyslexic, and my doctor once told me I made up for it through basketball. He said I made up for it on the basketball court with my court vision.
Matthew Hochberg: What was it like being a high school student, at a Yeshiva nonetheless, while garnering national attention at the same time?
Tamir Goodman: Playing for the Yeshiva in high school was great. I had the best family, best teammates and the best coaches. Senior year, I transferred to a Seventh Day Adventists school, with predominantly African Americans. This was a big transition for me, to leave a Jewish school and go right to a Christian school. However, this allowed me to play against very good players and helped me grow as a person, and a player. It was great, and ultimately I won the MVP award in the Capital Classic (a prestigious high school basketball tournament, one for which Michael Jordan received the MVP award as well).
Matthew Hochberg: Did you get weird looks from playing with a yarmulke on? (skullcap worn by Jewish males)
Photo via TamirGoodman.com
Tamir Goodman: There are a lot of challenging moments throughout my career but I feel like it is most important to be respectful and respect yourself. Most of the time the people making fun of you will come to respect you later on. Number one, one must have a strong identity and two, be as respectful as possible to other people. I experienced a lot more good than bad. I have great memories of cultural awareness – people coming together through basketball.
One time in college, I got hurt and went to the bench. However, my yarmulke got knocked off on the play, and my non-Jewish teammate got it from the court, picked it up, and put it on my head.
Matthew Hochberg: Who did you model your game after?
Tamir Goodman: One of the many amazing things my high school coach told me was to appreciate all styles of play. We studied films from many different players. I was very focused on reaching my own potential.
Matthew Hochberg: Do you think some college coaches decided not to pursue you in the recruiting process because of your religious needs? (Observant Jews may not engage in any activity considered work, including basketball, during the Jewish Sabbath which begins every Friday at sundown and concludes every Saturday at sundown.)
Tamir Goodman: That could be a reason. I wasn’t that heavily recruited, but I think when I got the opportunity to play for Maryland, I committed right away. That was my favorite team and it was close to home. Ultimately, I went to Towson. It was great. I got the opportunity to play Division I basketball. I had a great time.
Matthew Hochberg: Do you regret playing at Towson instead of at Maryland? (Goodman would have been required to play during the Jewish Sabbath at Maryland.)
Tamir Goodman: No, I never have regretted it. I never have had anything bad to say about Maryland, and never will. It worked out great for them, and great for me. For Jews, the Sabbath is something that lasts forever – beyond basketball.
Photo via TamirGoodman.com
Matthew Hochberg: How did playing college basketball in the United States differ from professional basketball in Israel?
Tamir Goodman: Basketball in the U.S. was much more intense in a lot of ways. The players are quicker, more athletic. In Israel, they focus more on half court sets, things like that, while in America they rely more on instincts.
Matthew Hochberg: What advice would you give to Jewish high school students aspiring to play college basketball and perhaps play professionally?
Tamir Goodman: Try not to settle, not only to Jewish kids, but for everyone. Try to reach God’s potential. Play for something greater than yourself, for something more than just your ego. Have a good time with it, enjoy every day, and work your absolute best.
Matthew Hochberg: If you had an opportunity to play in the NBA after college, would you have played on Shabbat, (Jewish Sabbath) knowing that if you refused you would likely be released?
Tamir Goodman: If I had to play on Shabbat, I would not play in the NBA.
Matthew Hochberg: Tell me a little bit about your relationship with Omri Casspi?
Tamir Goodman: Omri Casspi and I are partners and run youth basketball camps. We have camps coming up in New Jersey and Boston in early July. It’s been great to work with Omri, who is the first Israeli to make it to the NBA and will begin his fifth season in the NBA next year.
Matthew Hochberg: What is “Sport Strings?”
Tamir Goodman: Jewish people have been wearing tzitzit (specially knotted ritual fringes worn by observant Jews) for thousands of years. It is a four-cornered garment. I felt after what I had gone through in my career, when they (the fringes) got over saturated, and just couldn’t handle the training, I had to do something. So I developed the compression fit, UV protection, anti-odor tzitzit, called Sport Strings to allow every athlete to fulfill their Jewish commitments, and feel comfortable with what they’re wearing. We are launching a campaign to raise money to get it to the Israeli army for the soldiers.
On behalf of DoubleGSports.com, I would like to thank Mr. Goodman for taking the time to answer these questions and sharing his knowledge and personal experiences with us. Be sure to check out his new book, published by Diversion Books and now available on Amazon.com, The Jewish Jordan’s Triple Threat: Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Lessons from the Court. You can also follow him on Twitter @TamirGoodman.