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Jewish Jordan

Cindy Scarr

I got 700 media requests in one week after that, and appeared in a four-page spread in Sports Illustrated. They called me “the Jewish Jordan”

Thursday, October 13, 2016

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T amir Goodman, 34, Jerusalem, Israel

In the beginning

I was a normal kid with a great childhood. I had good friends, a terrific school and coaches, a close-knit family, and a warm and open home. My dad z”l was a real role model for me. He was one of the first lawyers in the US to wear his kippah in court. I remember one day he took me with him. I was sitting on the last bench, and when my dad walked into the courtroom, I was so proud to see him with his kippah. I knew I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.

I started playing basketball when I was five. I liked all sports, but nothing came close to my love of basketball. When I was 10 or 11 — I don’t remember exactly — I’d leave the house at 9 a.m. and go to the inner-city basketball courts. They didn’t let me play — the games were all adults — but I’d wait there all day, just dribbling on the sidelines. At nine p.m., when it was late enough that they didn’t have enough guys anymore, I could get into a full-court game for a few minutes. My parents had confidence in me — my dad often came down to the courts to watch me play.

A Jewish teacher from my day school passed by once and saw me there. The next day she asked: “Aren’t you afraid to be there?” I told her that I wasn’t. In fact, it was the place I felt most comfortable.

The moment I became a household name

Early in 11th grade, when I was 17, the coach from University of Maryland saw me play in a high school game. Maryland is a Division school, the highest level of intercollegiate athletics, and he immediately offered me a full four-year scholarship. That’s a big deal! He told me, “I’m already sure, but I’m coming back tomorrow to see your game, just because I enjoy watching you play.” It was my favorite team and my favorite school, but I told them I could only commit if I didn’t have to play on Shabbat or chagim.


How my life changed

I got 700 media requests in one week after that, and I appeared in a four-page spread in Sports Illustrated. They called me “the Jewish Jordan.” There was a picture of me wearing tefillin in the article.

The University of Maryland later reneged on its promise about no Shabbat games, so I committed to Towson University outside Baltimore. It’s also a D-1 school and they changed their schedule to accommodate me. I received a full athletic college scholarship and became the first and only Orthodox Jewish player to play D-1. Not only that, I did it wearing a yarmulke and not playing on Shabbat. My family was so supportive, but it was still tough. My schedule was packed. Sometimes my mom met me at airports in the middle of the night to give me kosher food.

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