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NBA Star, Omri Casspi, Partners on Jewish Basketball Youth Camp

The first Israeli-born NBA star joins Tamir Goodman for new venture.

By: Ashley Baylen
Published: June 4th, 2013 in Culture » Society » News
Tamir Goodman (left) and NBA forward Omri Casspi—pictured on the court of the United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls—together run basketball camps that seek to inspire youths on and off the court.Pic: Tamir Goodman

NBA Cleveland Cavalier’s forward, Omri Casspi, has joined forces with Tamir Goodman, a former Division I college basketball player, for an inspiring endeavor for Jewish youth.

Both Casspi and Goodman are ambassadors for Judaism on the court. The Cavalier’s player is the first-ever Israeli-born player in NBA history, while Goodman used to wear his yarmulke on the court in front of national audiences. The men may have competed against each other while playing professional Israeli basketball, but now they are working alongside one another “in a venture that aims to inspire a new generation of Jewish athletes,” according to jns.org.

In 2009, Goodman, who was profiled by Sports Illustrated and given the nickname “Jewish Jordan” in high school, retired from playing basketball to pursue a career as a coach and inspirational speaker. He moved from Israel to Cleveland, his wife’s hometown.

Two years later, Casspi was traded to Cleveland from Sacramento.

“We just connected right away,” Goodman said. “I went down to his house to meet with him and we just started talking, we just continued talking, and talking, and talking. We really have a lot in common, we played with a lot of the same players in Israel, and played for some of the same coaches, and it was just really fun to talk to him like that.”

In 2012, Casspi and Goodman launched a five-day youth basketball camp. More than 100 children, up to the 8th grade, attended last year, and so far 80 are signed up for this summer’s. The camp has expanded up to grade 12.

Goodman explains that the five-day camps intend to “get each kid to reach their full potential… They’ll get a lot out of those five days, a lot physically, emotionally, spiritually.”

Goodman adds that the camp helps Jewish kids relate to their heritage as well. He provided an example of one camper who asked Casspi if he had any superstitions. Casspi responded that he has to put his shoes on “the right way”, “referring to the halakhic concept of tying one’s left shoe first and removing the left shoe first (which is based on the belief that one’s right foot should never remain uncovered while the left is covered, because the right is more important than the left in Jewish law),” explains jns.org.

“For a kid maybe struggling with Jewish identity and Jewish pride, to hear an NBA player say they put on shoes that way, it’s an unforgettable experience,” Goodman said.

Goodman and Casspi point out that many youth basketball camps, such as Michael Jordan’s, do not accommodate observant Jewish children. They promise that their campers will receive a top-notch basketball education, “without having to sacrifice their Judaism in any way.”

To learn more about the camps offered by Casspi and Goodman, visitwww.tamirgoodman.com/casspi-goodman-camp/.