What do basketball, Pesach, and freedom have to do with each other?
by Tamir Goodman and Judy Horwitz Goodman
As Pesach approaches and we recall our ancestors’ exodus from the slavery of Egypt, Jewish people around the world are once again faced with the challenge of trying to break free from elements in our own lives that enslave us. While slavery can take on many different forms, I became personally familiar with one type of modern day slavery that can afflict us when we knowingly or unknowingly allow the values and trends espoused by mainstream society to define us and to limit our potential.
I first became cognizant of this type of slavery, when after retiring from playing professional basketball people began insinuating to me that if only I had taken a different path, one that left religion on the sidelines, I could have been better positioned to achieve greater success, the kind typified by fame, fortune, a glamorous NBA career…
Initially, these words pierced my soul and pained me until I realized that something about this line of reasoning just did not sit right with me. To me basketball had always been more than just a means to a materialistic end. On the contrary, the basketball court was where I had devoted countless hours to my training as I set out to beat the odds and became the first Jewish basketball player to play D-I and professional level basketball without playing on Shabbat or Jewish holidays. By staying true to my identity, I succeeded in fulfilling my dream of representing the Jewish people and Israel on the court at the top levels of the game. After retiring from playing, I needed to remind myself that a key to achieving inner-freedom is to break free from the oppression brought on when we allow others’ the power to define us.
One of the central messages in my new book, The Jewish Jordan’s Triple Threat: Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Lessons from the Court https://www.tamirgoodman.com/triple-threat-book-order/, is that when a spiritual consciousness pervades our lives, even the most physical pursuits, like basketball, can be infused with a deeper meaning and uplifted to the realm of the spiritual. By arming ourselves with spirituality, we can confidently embark on our life journeys, ready to adeptly navigate the inevitable twists and turns, and emerge with our identities not only intact, but strengthened. This Pesach may we all be blessed with the courage and fortitude to let the holy sparks of our souls illuminate our unique paths in life. By doing so, we will be empowered to experience meaningful success and lasting freedom this Pesach and beyond.
The following excerpt from Triple Threat touches upon the above points:
“I have been able to embrace my post-retirement career with enthusiasm and excitement because I am at peace with my playing career. But, it did not take long for me to realize that others are baffled by my positive outlook. Strangers who still recognize me often insinuate that I could have been more successful if only I had left my religion on the sidelines. The conversation typically goes something like this: “Hey! Are you the ‘Jewish Jordan?’ I was wondering . . . do you think you could have had a shot at making it to the NBA if you would have played at Maryland and been on their national championship team in ‘02? What was the big deal about those Saturday games anyway?” The bottom line is that most people do not understand my choices, do not see my career as a success, and cannot understand how I can spin it in a positive light.
My response is to explain that it depends on how you define success. My goal was never to become a celebrity basketball player for the sake of having the fame and fortune—I had deeper spiritual reasons for playing the game that shaped my priorities on the court. My goal on the court was always to be the most complete player I could be while staying true to my spiritual side, which manifested itself through my practice of Judaism. My spirituality imposed boundaries on my career that precluded me from attaining mainstream society’s definition of success, but it did not limit me from reaching my goal. On the contrary, my spirituality gave me a purpose for playing the game, increased motivation to play with every ounce of effort I had, and the confidence to do it in my own way.”
The book is available for purchase at: https://www.tamirgoodman.com/triple-threat-book-order/ or contact Tamir at: firstname.lastname@example.org