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Growing up as the ‘Jewish Jordan’

AbbottBy Henry Abbott
In a moment with parallels to Linsanity, Tamir Goodman was once a global basketball phenomenon with a strong cultural identity — especially after Sports Illustrated called him “the Jewish Jordan.” At the time he was a high-school junior from Pikesville, Maryland. Now Goodman’s 31, his overseas professional playing career is over, and he looks back in a conversation with Ian Levy on Hardwood Paroxysm:

You know when everything happened with me I was only 16 years old. I think there was one week where I had 700 media requests. You can’t really understand what that means.

I was just a kid that loved basketball and I loved being Jewish. I was just trying to be the best Jewish athlete that I could be. It was that simple. I loved my family. I loved my coach. I loved my team. I loved my school. That was it and I didn’t understand much more than that.

But here I am 31 years old and I go through the airport in some random city and the guy checking my bag says, “You’re the Jewish Jordan.” That affects the rest of your life and it happens so quickly.

The thing about me was that I was lucky because it wasn’t about me. It was something that was bigger than me. It allowed me to handle everything much better because it wasn’t about me personally. That allowed me to handle the ups and downs of my career much better. From what I understand with Jeremy Lin and definitely with Omri Casspi, who I’m close with and was the first Israeli player to play in the NBA, for them it’s also about something that’s bigger than themselves. If you have a lot of success, you say “This is not about me, it’s about something bigger than me.” If there are challenges you know how to get right back on track because it’s not about you, and that gives you extra motivation. I can’t quit now. There are a lot of things out there I need to accomplish so I can inspire other people. So that’s the mindset that allows them to handle these kinds of situations and I think that’s what Lin has done, and that’s what I see Omri doing almost on a daily basis.

The advice I would give them, not that I need to give them any advice, is play for something bigger than yourself. That will help you reach your potential and help everyone else around you reach their potential as well.

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