After seven years playing professional basketball, Tamir Goodman is hanging up his jersey.(with videos)
After seven years playing professional basketball, Tamir Goodman is hanging up his jersey.
On Sept. 15, the 27-year-old point guard, who made history as not only the first pro basketball player to wear a kippah on the court but also the first never to play on Shabbat, announced his retirement from Israel’s pro league due to multiple injuries sustained over his career.
Tamir Goodman and a life’s mission (videos)
Goodman, once dubbed “The Jewish Jordan” by Sports Illustrated, makes it very clear, however, that this is far from the end of his basketball career. In fact, the second phase of his journey has only just begun, as he turns his attention toward the multiple charities, camps and clinics he has set up to help special needs kids and underprivileged Jewish youth, including Haifa Hoops for Kids and the Tamir Goodman Athletic Leadership Basketball Camp.
Goodman was in Toronto recently to deliver a public address on the topic, “A story of Faith.” He will return next spring for a three-on-three tournament to raise money for the Hoops For Kids program.
Ever since he watched his older brother, Reuven, play for his high school basketball team, Goodman knew he wanted to get into the sport. He considered playing basketball somewhat of a religious experience, stating that, as he matured, it was his way to “sanctify HaShem” through being a positive role model for others.
“I just tried to be the absolute best player that I could be, but at the same time tried to always be the best Jew that I could be,” he said. “And as I get older, I realize that it’s all one thing – you’re not just Jewish when you go to shul and a different person when you go to work.”
Following his high school basketball stint, he accepted a scholarship to play for the University of Maryland, but due to the coach’s insistence that he play on Shabbat, he was forced to transfer to lesser-known Towson University.
It was at Towson that Goodman made sports history, convincing the league to rearrange its schedule and becoming the first Division 1 basketball player to never play on Shabbat and the major Jewish holidays.
After moving to Israel in 2002, Goodman played for several Israeli teams, including Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Shoham. He also served in the Israeli Defence Forces before returning to the United States in 2007 to play for the Maryland Nighthawks of the Premier Basketball League for one year.
He returned to Israel to play his final pro season with the Haifa Heat in 2008. Goodman said he’ll remember that season as the culmination of many fruitful years in the sport.
“It was such a blessing to end my career there, because my career was basically about fighting for Shabbat, fighting for kosher food, fighting for Judaism in many ways. And Maccabi Haifa was just such a professional team… just the way they treat you, the way they respect you and just what they’re trying to do off the court and on the court, through basketball. I just felt so at home.”
As much as he would still love to be able to play, Goodman sees his basketball career as merely the first phase in a life of motivating others to follow their dreams and realize their goals.
“My body has come back from three career-ending injuries – two major injuries in my knee and one in my hand. I had nine major injuries in the last 10 years, so now I’m at the point where I physically can’t play anymore, but it really fell right into place with Maccabi Haifa and phase two of my life, which is to create a school to help everyone else and to inspire everyone else,” he said.
Goodman announced his retirement at the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn. The museum was dedicated to the memory of Ari Halberstam, a yeshiva student and fellow basketball player who was murdered 15 years ago by an Arab gunman on the Brooklyn Bridge in apparent retribution for a massacre of 29 Arabs by Jewish doctor Baruch Goldstein days earlier at a mosque in Hebron.
According to Goodman, the museum supports the very same philanthropic work he will be conducting over the second part of his career.
“When there’s a tragedy, Judaism teaches us that we fight back with light,” he said. “So, the greatest thing we can do in [Halberstam’s] memory is announce our charity work and all the good that we’re doing.”
“I don’t just look at basketball as a game. I know how much good it can do. I know how basketball can get special needs kids to have the time of their life.
“I’ve been around basketball my whole life and it’s a very, very powerful tool that can be used in a very, very positive way, and I feel like it’s my mission to do it.”
Goodman says he’s grateful that all of his hard work and loyalty to his beliefs have paid off and that others have taken notice as well, a fact that he considers the ultimate kiddush HaShem.
“I’d say the best basketball compliment I ever got was last year when my coach just came up to me one day and said ‘You know what, I scouted all the players in Europe and around the world [and] you’re the hardest worker I’ve ever met in my life.’ My drive was so strong because I wanted to show the world that I could do this with my kippah on.”