Sinai Says: More Jewish than Jordan, former prodigy Goodman back in Holy Land

It has been 15 years since Sports Illustrated dubbed him “The Jewish Jordan,” but Tamir Goodman still gets recognized at his local pizza parlor.

October 8, 2014 00:27
Tamir Goodman

Basketball star Tamir Goodman. (photo credit: Courtesy)

It has been 15 years since Sports Illustrated dubbed him “The Jewish Jordan,” but Tamir Goodman still gets recognized at his local pizza parlor.

His injury-plagued career may have ended more than five years ago, but he seems destined to forever be associated with the nickname he earned as a high school player at the Talmudical Academy of Baltimore.

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These days, Goodman buys his pizza in Jerusalem after returning to live in Israel with his wife and four children six weeks ago thanks to the success of the Zone190, a patented basketball training device that enables players to harness their skills by replicating game-time scenarios.

The Goodmans left for America five years ago after Tamir’s pro career ended following another knee injury. They always wanted to move back to Israel and the commercial success of Zone190 made that possible.

The hoops player turned entrepreneur has also quickly become involved with Hapoel Jerusalem’s rejuvenated basketball club, being named as the head of international business development.

One of his first projects will be to lead a two-day basketball camp in Chol Hamoed Sukkot next Sunday and Monday at Gan Pa’amon in Jerusalem.

Goodman says the camp is mainly aimed at children of tourists on holiday in Jerusalem, with the three-hour training sessions open to kids aged 9-17.

“All these kids from around the world are coming to Israel to celebrate Sukkot and it’s a great opportunity to unite them through their shared love of basketball,” explained Goodman.

“The kids are going to get world class basketball training. I have great experience in training pro players and I’ve worked with the top coaches in the world. The fact it is being held in Jerusalem during Chol Hamoed Sukkot and that they will be able to play with kids from all over the world during a joyous time of the year for the Jewish people makes it a unique experience.”

Goodman’s playing career never panned out the way many predicted it would during his high school days.

He became a media sensation following the Sports Illustrated piece, featuring on 60 Minutes, ESPN, CNN, as well as The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Every major media outlet seemed to want a piece of the Orthodox Jew poised to play at college basketball’s loftiest level. He was offered a scholarship by the University of Maryland, one of the top-ranked basketball teams in the country, but that never came to be, with Goodman saying at the time that there was friction over his refusal to play on Shabbat.

He still ended up playing Division I basketball at Towson, which agreed to schedule its games so there wouldn’t be any conflicts.

Goodman’s time there ended on a sour note after he filed a complaint that the newly hired coach allegedly assaulted him.

In July 2002, he signed his first professional deal when he agreed to a three-year contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv. He never got to play for the yellow-and-blue, initially being loaned to Givat Shmuel and Ironi Kiryat Ata. Knee injuries went on to completely derail his career and he announced his premature retirement at the age of 27.

Nevertheless, he still gets recognized wherever he goes.

“Almost everywhere I go everyone still says ‘are you the Jewish Jordan?’”, he admitted. “I never asked to be called the Jewish Jordan, but since the name came along and the media made a big deal about it I use it as a tool to help inspire other people. I feel that if I’m extra sweet and kind to them maybe I can inspire them more and help them in their life more. I try to use it as a tool to make other people smile when they meet me.”

It was while he was injured that Goodman came up with the idea for Zone190. The training device looks and acts like a trampoline for basketballs and allows players to throw and catch the ball as if they were playing with their teammates.

Goodman held a 45-minute clinic and demonstration of the Zone190 at the Women’s NCAA Final Four Convention in Nashville in April and he has recently signed a licensing agreement with a leading sports distributor in America. Although it has been on the market only since January 2013, its buyers already include the Detroit Pistons and other NBA teams that can’t be named because of confidentiality agreements.

“I’m so happy that I was able to take something negative and turn it into something positive,” he said. “I only came up with Zone190 after I was hurt and now to think that NBA players are using my product on a daily basis is so great. I always believed in it very much and I worked around the clock on it for three years.”

The income Zone190 is generating has allowed the Goodmans to return to Israel.

“My wife and I always wanted to live in Israel,” he said. “Once Zone190 was successful we were able to fulfill our family dream to raise our kids in Israel. I’m glad I got to live my dream out as a player, and now post-playing, able to live out my dream with Zone190 and doing this incredible work with Hapoel Jerusalem.”

Goodman is responsible for branding Hapoel to communities outside of Israel.

“Jerusalem is loved by Jewish people from all over the world. We are just trying to do as much good as possible in letting people know that Hapoel Jerusalem is a great team that is very focused on the community,” he noted. “We are trying to unite the spiritual and physical, the spiritual level of Jerusalem with the new basketball arena and all these different projects that we have going on with the team, whether it is the Sukkot camps or Barmitzvah and Batmitzvah clinics.”

Despite never realizing his potential as a player, Goodman has no regrets. He believes everything is divinely ordained and he embraces the role he has been given in this life.

“I never have any regrets because I always gave 100 percent every single day.

I did everything that was in my control,” he said. “Unfortunately, so many unforeseen challenges, mostly injuries, came along. Most people, when they look at my career on a physical level they say ‘whatever happened to Jewish Jordan’? But for me, I have been able to look at the bigger picture. When I was a kid everyone told me I will never be able to play NCAA Division I basketball or professional basketball because I don’t play basketball on Shabbat. But I lived out my dream and I did play Division I and I did play professionally. And I never had to play on Shabbat and I always wore my kipa on the court."

“Looking back, every single injury helped me to grow. Physically or spiritually, learn more about the game or learn more about my identity as a person. It really was a blessing in disguise."

“I always feel that everything is divinely ordained,” he added. “It might not be the way most people define success, but I’ve been able to redefine success in my life and I feel very blessed. Everything I went through was a stepping stone to help me fulfill my mission in this world and what God’s expecting from me.”

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