Jewish World Review July 25, 2002 / 16 Menachem-Av Adar, 5762

Goodman, left, speaks with
teammate at high school game
"Jewish Jordan" sees himself as part of Divine plan, heads to the Holy Land

By Phil Jacobs | Tamir Goodman once wrote in his seventh-grade yearbook that his dream was to play professional basketball someday for Israel's top team, Maccabi Tel Aviv.

His dream has come true.

The Baltimore Jewish Times was informed Monday morning, July 22, by Steven Heumann, attorney and friend of Mr. Goodman, that the 20-year-old basketball phenomenon has signed a three-year contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel's most prestigious basketball team and a power force in European basketball.

"The first thing that came to my mind was Baruch HaShem [blessed is G-d]," said Mr. Goodman. "There is no other way to look at it. Without HaShem's blessing, this never would have happened.

"Everyone has a special talent in the world. With me, it is basketball," he said. "Whatever your talent is, it is your job to develop it and bring Godliness to it. I've had a lot of ups and downs, but it is so clear to me what HaShem has given me an opportunity to do."

Maccabi Tel Aviv plays an 82-game schedule and competes in three different leagues, including the Israel League, the Adriatic League and the Euro League. Maccabi Tel Aviv finished in the final four of the powerful Euro League last year, and won it outright the previous year.

In the first year of the deal, there is a chance that Mr. Goodman will be loaned to the Hapoel Galil Elyon team to give him more playing time, according to Mr. Heumann. The team plays in the same Israel League as Maccabi Tel Aviv. It is, according to Mr. Heumann, like comparing the New York Yankees to the Kansas City Royals, both major-league baseball teams.

Mr. Heumann added that it is a common practice within European basketball style for teams to loan players within divisions.

Most importantly, Mr. Goodman, an Orthodox Jew who is considered a popular role model for young Jews in the United States and Israel, will not be required to play or practice on the Jewish Sabbath.

"There is a clause in his contract," said Mr. Heumann, "that he is not required to participate in team activities that require him to desecrate the Sabbath or any other Jewish holiday."

Mr. Heumann said he believes this is the first-ever clause such as this in a professional basketball contract. He also said he believes Mr. Goodman will be the first player to wear a yarmulke in the Israel League for at least the past decade.

Financial terms of the contract were not released, but Mr. Heumann said, "This is a good contract for him. It is in line with other young European star caliber players for first-time contracts."

Practice will start in three weeks to a month. "I couldn't be happier for him," said Mr. Heumann. "He's such a wonderful guy. Now, he's a pro."

Mr. Goodman, a 6-foot-3 1/2" guard, captured the global basketball stage when, as a Talmudical Academy of Baltimore junior, he was featured for both his athletic skills and commitment to Judaism in media outlets all over the world, including a spread in Sports Illustrated. He initially considered attending the University of Maryland, College Park, but opted out when there was a question over the school respecting his Sabbath observance.

He then attended Towson University, but parted company with the school after the basketball coach, Michael Hunt, allegedly threatened him with physical harm following a game last December. Mr. Goodman, a sophomore, finished the school year at Towson under scholarship, completing his courses.

But in trips to Israel, Mr. Goodman was flocked by thousands of children and young adults. He put on skill demonstrations for them, and then delivered discussions on the week's Torah portion. He even appeared on Israel's most popular television talk show, speaking fluent Hebrew.

"Everything that has happened to me has been a 100 percent brachah [blessing]," Mr. Goodman recently told the Jewish Times. "Even what happened at Towson, and that's so behind me, was a brachah."

"I'm not bitter about anything," he said. "Again, I see this all as G-d's plan for me. I guess I'm a trailblazer. Some people felt that after Towson, it was a sign for me to get out of basketball, that maybe it wasn't right for me. But that isn't the case. G-d has a special plan for me, but it's my job to develop the plan.

"I'm not an amazing person," Mr. Goodman said. "I'm just following G-d's plan."

Phil Jacobs is editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times.


© 2002, Baltimore Jewish Times