Corona was raging. At the beginning of 2021, Israel basically shut down for a then-unknown virus. As the pandemic was beginning, fears of transmission of the unknown contaminant were escalating. Gyms were forced to close. Bring your own basketball to practice? There had to be a better way, thought coach Tamir Goodman. Multiple basketballs in use on the court would be dangerous for his young players.
Recently, Yeshiva University’s men’s basketball team, the Maccabees, made headlines with their record-breaking winning streak. Growing up in the United States, basketball was a very popular team sport. Basketball teams were formed in hundreds of synagogues and day schools throughout the US, many participating in a local church or private school league. The Jewish basketball players, male and female, were often/usually shorter than their opponents, and so as not to embarrass themselves on the court, they had to be quicker and play smarter.
Years before Yeshiva University’s success on the court, there was Tamir Goodman. In 1999, Goodman was dubbed “The Jewish Jordan” by Sports Illustrated. Ranked the 25th best high school player in the United States, he gained national attention after averaging over 35 points per game in his junior year at the local boy’s yeshiva Talmudical Academy, commonly called TA, in Baltimore.
Goodman captivated not only the Jewish sports-loving world but also the national media’s attention with the unusual combination of his faith and basketball skills on the court. He made history as the first Jewish basketball player to play Division One college while wearing a kippah on the court and being persistent not to play on Shabbat. The press was positioned on the sidelines to document every slam dunk and low point of Goodman’s career. Being compared to Michael Jordan, the Orthodox Jewish teen basketball star was reported in major outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Sports Illustrated, and on ESPN, CNN and Fox.
His fame during his junior year drew too much attention to the yeshiva high school and away from their desired focus of serious Torah study. Goodman changed schools for his senior year. Attending Takoma Academy, a Seventh Day Adventist school, made it possible to avoid playing basketball on Shabbat and graduate from high school, looking toward the goal of playing on a college team.
His rise to fame led to an offer from the University of Maryland, but again playing basketball on Shabbat became an issue. He declined and started college at Towson University in Maryland. But a new coach came to Towson, and again it seemed Goodman had to leave his dream of becoming a professional basketball player. He would not violate Shabbat to play.
Born January 18, 1982, Goodman was 6’3”, thin in build, and with his red hair he stood out on the court. While he was a star on the court, dyslexia slowed him down as a student in the classroom. Goodman was named MVP of the Capital Classic All-Star Game, an award won by basketball superstars, but he also endured taunts and nicknames such as “Howdy Doody” when he was younger.
The idea that “every time I stepped on the court I felt I have represented Israel and the Jewish people as a positive role model” guided Goodman over the years.
In 2002, Goodman moved to Israel and was signed as a professional basketball player by Maccabi Tel Aviv, considered by many as the top Israeli and European League basketball team. Former NBA Coach David Blatt was the team’s coach at the time.
In 2004, Goodman took a break from playing basketball to serve in the Israel Defense Forces where he received a “Most Outstanding Soldier” award.
After army service, he continued following his childhood dream, with a professional basketball career on some of the best Israeli teams including Maccabi Haifa and Givat Shmuel. After seven years, his on-the-court career came to an end because of repeated physical injuries. He retired from playing professional basketball in 2009. Now, the rest of the story...
After retiring, Goodman obtained a B.A. in communications, and established a reputation as a sought-after motivational speaker, coach, and educator. Relating to audiences of all ages, he tells how he has learned something with each downturn, moving on to something to inspire and give back.
With his wife, Judy Horwitz Goodman, he published a book, The Jewish Jordan’s Triple Threat: Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Lessons from the Court” in 2013.
Judy Goodman is also an accomplished athlete, an outstanding competitive runner. Like her husband, she would not train or race on Shabbat and lost many opportunities, especially during her college years. Moving to Israel she completed a year of national service before earning her BA and MA degrees in English Literature from Bar-Ilan University.
“My wife and I are good teammates,” says Goodman. Besides working together on the various sports-inspired inventions and projects, they have five children.
Goodman’s growing list of accomplishments includes being founder and director of the nonprofit Coolanu Israel, CEO and creator of Sport Strings Tzitzit, a partner in the Omri Casspi Basketball Camps, and the inventor of basketball training aids including Zone 190, a basketball device that helps players improve their basketball skills by replicating game-time scenarios, invented and marketed by Goodman.
His latest basketball innovation is finishing its testing stages and coming to the world market. Partnered with David Warschawski, an assistant basketball coach back in Goodman’s high school days, the talented duo formed a new sports equipment innovation and apparel company called AVIV.
Traditional basketball nets have not changed in the last 130 years, though the game itself has evolved significantly. With the new Aviv Net, players no longer need to handle a wet and slippery ball, enabling them to play smarter, safer, and better. During these difficult corona times, the new Aviv Net gives coaches, players, and facilities a way to better ensure health and safety, AVIV said at the launch of the first-ever moisture-wicking and antimicrobial basketball net.
“After hearing complaints countless times on and off the court, I knew there had to be a solution,” said Goodman. “I wanted to fix this common problem and improve athletes’ relationship with the game. Additionally, with the onset of COVID, everyone has become more conscientious about germ and infection avoidance. We wanted to help solve that problem in basketball.”
The Aviv Basketball Net was engineered with athletes’ performance, ability, and safety in mind, to enable a dry and clean ball each time.
The Aviv Net was used in the FIBA Basketball World Cup game of Jerusalem vs. Turkey in October 2021. “I loved this net and definitely noticed a difference,” said Thon Maker of Hapoel Jerusalem, impressed with the net’s impact on his game-play. Maker and his teammates are looking forward to using the Aviv net in the future.
Employing a patent-pending technology that dramatically dries the ball from sweat and cleans bacteria from the ball’s surface every time the ball goes through the hoop means players will have a decreased risk of coming in contact with harmful bacteria and be able to play with a far less slippery ball than usual, ultimately improving ball handling and shooting. The Basketball League, a North American minor league professional basketball organization with 42 teams, announced a partnership in which Aviv will provide 150 Aviv basketball nets by the end of January.
The patent process yarns were developed and are spun in Rechovot, with production after the end of gamma testing to be done in the US.
During a LinkedIn live interview with Yoel Israel of WadiDigital, Goodman related how he works out twice a day and is up at 4:00 am to exercise. From 6:00-7:00 a.m. he coaches his post-high school gap-year students who are in Israel planning to return to the US. Perhaps, YU’s newest basketball stars are in Israel training now?
The extreme career highs and lows, with injuries, dyslexic mixing-up of numbers, as well as soaring on the court “using the power of who you are” to move forward have marked Goodman’s journey. He hopes his difficulties and not playing on Shabbat will make the path smoother for the next generation.
Over the years, he has used his bumps along the road as examples to relate to children, with a goal to not disconnect with but to elevate Judaism and Israel. In Jerusalem’s Liberty Bell Park, Goodman led a basketball camp on the intermediate days of Sukkot in 2014. Watching him interact with the group and use his personal ups and downs was impressive and inspiring.
There are plans for a basketball camp for boys 11-17 in the new sports at the Jerusalem YMCA complex at the beginning of July. There is no overnight option this year due to corona, and the camp is to be shorter due to the International Maccabiah Games planned for July. The camp will be open to Israelis and tourists who meet the health ministry regulations, and will be run in full compliance with all health regulations in place at the time of camp. Campers will have to bring their own food, masks, and all programming/special guests are subject to change, as the corona challenges are still with us.
“Growing up,” Goodman says, “I was known as the ‘stupid basketball player.’” He was placed in the lowest level class, and in 11th grade asked to leave the lowest math class and to study with a tutor instead. Exams for college were another challenge. “Then what is a stupid basketball player like me doing at HY Labs in the prestigious Science Park in Rechovot?” he said.
“Well, I first came across HY Labs when I was looking for a lab to do testing on my new product, the Antimicrobial and Moisture Wicking Aviv Basketball Net. Turns out HY Labs does testing for leading biotech companies around the world. They worked with me, and the test results were amazing – the Aviv Net proved to dramatically clean the ball from bacteria and sweat.”
Taking difficulties as challenges to overcome, Tamir Goodman from basketball days has matured within Start-Up Nation. But first and foremost he has been a mensch on and off the bench. His focus on what you can control, to think positively and work hard, is an inspiration to those who know him and learn from him. Goodman is an entrepreneur, and the new basketball net is the first of ideas and innovations to come in the future from Aviv sport.
For more information about Goodman see @tamirgoodman on Twitter, or his website: TamirGoodman.com ■