CHICAGO – Tamir Goodman blazed a career in basketball that evolved from practicing on Maryland playgrounds to being ranked one of the top 25 high school basketball players in America. Along the way, he was named MVP of the prestigious Capitol Classic all-star game, played professionally on several Israeli basketball teams, and earned the unique title of being the “Jewish Jordan” by Sports Illustrated magazine before retiring at age 27.
Throughout his rise in basketball, Goodman stayed true to his Judaism. Raised in an orthodox family, he played Division 1 basketball on an athletic scholarship without ever playing on the Jewish Sabbath. He became the first observant Jew in recent history to reach the highest levels of his sport while not losing touch with his religious conviction.
Goodman now brings that Jewish pride and spiritual passion to basketball courts as part of his innovative Coolanu Israel Basketball Camps, creatively designed to fuse physical prowess with positive messaging and Judaism. Each time he directs young people on the best way to pass the ball, position their feet, shoot a basket, Goodman talks about the mental and physical preparation that it takes to be the best person you can be from athlete to student to friend to leader. For Goodman, basketball – in all its drills, moves, positions, and strategy – is a metaphor for life.
“You need to represent something bigger than yourself,” Goodman said. “The lower you are to the ground, the more rooted you are, the more humble you are, then the best you will be. You need to keep your head up because every moment, every day counts. It’s the same thing in Judaism as it is in life. You need to react positively.”
Thanks to a collaboration with The iCenter, Goodman will lead his Coolanu Basketball Camps at the Joy of the Game in Deerfield, Il from Tuesday, December 20 to Thursday, December 22 and at Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago, IL from Tuesday, December 27 to Thursday, December 29. The camps are designed for boys and girls, grades 3 to 8. A coaches’ training session will precede each camp and a banquet/awards ceremony will take place at the conclusion of each camp. The media is welcome to come see how Goodman works his magic with young people, uniting their physical and spiritual selves.
“Having Tamir Goodman come to inspire our young people through his gift and talent for the game of basketball is a huge asset for the Chicago Jewish community,” said Anne Lanski, Executive Director of The iCenter in Northbrook. Bringing the Coolanu Israel Basketball Camp to Chicago was a result of The iCenter’s Incubator program which encourages out-of-the-box approaches to reaching young people and inspiring them to connect to Judaism and Israel.
“This is such a win-win for young people to see an inspiring figure like Tamir Goodman who does what he loves and still holds true to his belief in Judaism and his love of Israel. We have much to learn from him as a role model,” said Diane Kushnir Halivni, Coolanu’s program director.
Goodman’s fairy tale story started when he was a high school junior being courted by big-name basketball coaches in 1999. Staying true to his commitment to Judaism, he refused to play on the Jewish Sabbath and had to change high schools to make that happen. He won a scholarship from the University of Maryland but gave it back when they insisted he play on Saturdays.
Instead, he was recruited to Towson University in Maryland where he befriended a Muslim roommate and made international headlines for his performance and the accommodations that his coach initially made for him and his faith. After he graduated, he signed a three-year contract to play with a prestigious team in Israel.
In Israel, he played six seasons of professional basketball despite facing many injuries, including knee surgery at age 23. He met his wife, Judy, and kept trying to get back to the basketball court. He was also a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces and received the “Outstanding Soldier Award.”
Eventually, Goodman was picked up by the Maryland Nighthawks in 2007, the first observant Jew to play on a major US basketball team. But, he faced a complex finger dislocation, needed surgery and extensive rehabilitation. More injuries occurred, and by 2009, he had to retire from the game he loved most. He was 27. His story has been featured on ESPN, CNN, ABC, Fox News, and various newspapers. He has been praised by NBA luminaries such as Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, Magic Johnson, and Shaquille O’Neal.
“Even though I lost everything I really gained everything. I grew as a person. I had more direction and meaning,” Goodman said as he looked back on his life that seemed destined for the NBA. He has no regrets. He remains positive in his outlook despite any setbacks, and he has fashioned that good attitude to the Coolanu Israel Basketball Camps. “We’re doing as much good as we can,” he said, adding he has coached more than 30,000 young people though his camps and clinics in North America and Israel.
Enrollment is still open for the camps. Register online by December 13th at CoolanuIsrael.org. For more information about Coolanu Israel basketball camps, contact Diane Halivni at firstname.lastname@example.org, 847-254-2024