By Phil Jacobs, Baltimore Jewish Times (Sep 11, 2009)
There were people who would spend their Saturday nights traveling to cavernous, unfamiliar high school gyms in the city and the county.
When the venue changed to Towson University’s Reitz Arena, the crowds followed him there.
Some knew shortcuts to the Takoma Academy or could name every team in the America East Conference.
When he signed a professional contract in Israel, they kept track on the Internet.
After over six years in Israel’s professional basketball league, Tamir Goodman, the “Jewish Jordan,” “the kid with the lid,” the boy from Talmudical Academy, will announce his retirement, Tuesday, Sept. 15, at the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn, N.Y.
At age 27, Goodman, the first Orthodox Jewish player to play professionally in Israel and for a brief stint in the United States, will continue spreading the gospel of basketball, Israel and Jewish outreach.
His final team was Maccabi Haifa Heat. He will continue working for the team, running the organization’s Haifa Hoops for Kids outreach programs in the U.S. Midwest. Goodman will live with his wife and their three children in Cleveland for at least two years.
“It’s a program that uses basketball to bring light to the world in many ways,” he said. “It helps Jewish kids connect to their heritage and to Israel. It raises money for special needs kids in Israel, and for kids who have been victims of terror. This will be a perfect continuation for me.”
Goodman played five seasons for four Israeli teams. Those squads reached the Israeli Cup finals and the Israeli Premier League semis. In 2007, Goodman returned to play for the newly established Premier Basketball League’s Maryland Nighthawks franchise. He was, however, injured after two games. In his career, Goodman has had career-altering injuries to a knee and to both hands.
“I physically can’t play anymore at that level,” he said. “I’ve come back from nine big injuries, and three career ending injuries. I came back from every single one, but last year I shattered my hand, and there was no way I could push through it.”
He signed with Maccabi Haifa Heat in July of 2008. Team owner Jeffrey Rosen was quoted then in the Jerusalem Post saying, “We expect that Tamir’s signing will bridge the relationship between the Israeli and American Jewish community, as well as the Israeli and American basketball community.”
Goodman said that his new role with the team fulfills his team owner’s expectations, and is “perfectly ordained.”
He divides his career into two parts, his high school and college experiences and then his college career.
Goodman was a most valuable player in the vaunted Capital Classic Prep Basketball all star game. He had a feature written about him in “Sports Illustrated” and was labeled the “Jewish Jordan.” Both local and national media highlighted his play, and crowds jammed the small Talmudical Academy gym.
He was known equally for his behind-the-back passes as well as his scoring ability. He averaged more than 35 points a game in 1998-99 (his junior year at Talmudical Academy) and then more than 24 points a game at Takoma Academy in Suburban Washington, D.C.
Goodman would turn down a full scholarship to play for the University of Maryland, because its schedule often conflicted with Shabbat.
Towson University, however, gave him a home. The Tigers’ American East Conference has few if any conflicting games.
During his sophomore year, and after disagreements with a new Towson coach, Goodman left the school. He would go on to sign with Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“The first half of my career was very successful,” he said. “HaShem would carry me. There would be times I’d score 50 points and not even realize it.”
After his freshman year at Towson, there was, he said, a series of setbacks.
“I never gave up and always believed in my mission and tried to move forward. So I think the second part of my career prepared me for the second part of my life. How could I be sensitive to kids who have experienced a difficult life, if I have never struggled? I knew struggle, fighting back injuries.”
He said that he will miss playing.
“I lived out my dream,” he said. “I learned so much along the way. I try to stay positive through everything, and now I hope to inspire others. This is kind of a continuation. It’s the same mission, but it’s going to be a little different.
“It’s been a great ride. There are so many people, how do I say thank you to people who put my career in front of them, my coaches and teammates and friends. Everyone did everything in the world to help me be successful. I can’t wait to thank everyone.”
A highlight of his career? Not surprisingly, it came off the court.
While walking on a sidewalk in Jerusalem, a car stopped and a stranger said to him, “the entire earth shook from your Kiddish HaShem for not playing on Shabbat at Maryland.” And then the man just drove away.
“I have davened and had Shabbos in places in arenas that never had davening and Shabbos before,” he said. “I had non-Jewish teammates going out of their way to help me. But if you would have asked me at TA would I be retired from basketball at age 27, I would have said no way. But HaShem has a better plan, and it’s his plan.”