Book Review: ‘Jewish Jordan’ Memoir an Important Guide for Players and Coaches

June 10, 2013 12:27 am 0 comments

The cover of "Jewish Jordan's Triple Threat," the new book by Tamir Goodman. Jeffrey F. Barken, who writes a book review for JNS.org, calls the volume an important guide for players and coaches. Photo: Diversion Books.

JNS.org – Despite his friends’ and family’s doubts that a young Orthodox Jewish athlete could ever play college or professional basketball without compromising his religious values, between 1999 and 2009 the “Jewish Jordan” defied conventional wisdom and found his place on the court.

In his new memoir, Jewish Jordan’s Triple Threat, Tamir Goodman describes his triumphs and disappointments in life, crediting his practice of Judaism for shaping his identity as an athlete and his understanding of basketball as a team sport.

First nicknamed the “Jewish Jordan” after being ranked among the top 25 high school players in the country, Goodman was immediately swarmed by media attention. Many top college teams, including the University of Maryland, scouted his talent, but for a moment it seemed that no American institution could accommodate his special needs as an observant Jew.

Goodman, however, never gave up his dream. In 2000, he received an athletic scholarship from Towson University. A testament to his skill level, Goodman’s coaches at Towson made NCAA history when they reworked their team’s entire game schedule to accommodate his strict observance of the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. Goodman averaged 6 points, 4 assists, and 2.5 rebounds per game in his freshman year. He was later recruited to play professionally for Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa in Israel.

“I pushed myself to the limit each day because I sought to represent the Jewish people and Israel on the basketball court, and to attest that it is possible to play at the top levels of a very physical game while staying true to my spiritual identity,” Goodman writes.

Even as a child, Goodman was aware of the unique challenges he faced pursuing professional opportunities, but he was wonderfully inspired. He practiced constantly. His book abounds with descriptions of workout routines and model game concepts that will help young players follow in his footsteps.

While practice was important for Goodman, he largely attributes his success to the advice his longtime mentor, Coach Chaim Katz, gave him on the evening of the prestigious Capitol Classic All Star-Game. “Just remember not to take any extra dribbles,” Katz said, underlining the importance of teamwork. Goodman needed to isolate and ignore his ego and not be selfish with the ball, otherwise his coach feared he would succumb to the pressures of media and scout attention that the high-stakes game presented.

Throughout the trials and tribulations of high school celebrity, the challenge of finding an accommodating college, and a later injury as a professional player, Katz’s advice continued to influence Goodman’s “court awareness” and playing style.

“The way I see it, a basketball team is like an intricate puzzle with each player on the team representing a piece of the larger picture,” Goodman reflects.

Readers will appreciate Goodman’s imaginative basketball court scenarios, in which he describes difficult plays and emotional shots. By getting into the heads of his fellow teammates, Goodman displays his unique ability to analyze each player’s role in specific situations. Additionally, he suggests a hierarchy of objectives that will help aspiring athletes perform when the clock is running down.

These practice suggestions and anecdotes illuminate Goodman’s love and enthusiasm for basketball, and they make Jewish Jordan’s Triple Threatstand out as an important player’s guide and coach’s manual that will help inspire and instruct new athletes. Goodman exhibits a remarkable understanding of the way the human body reacts under the stress of competitive sports, and he offers sound advice to players recovering from injury.

Athletes and coaches who have read the book are already vouching for it. Brendan Suhr, a former assistant coach for the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) New York Knicks, on Twitter called the book a “must read for players,” and current Cleveland Cavaliers forward Omri Casspi (the first Israeli-born NBA player) in a testimonial on Goodman’s website called it “an inspiring book with expert basketball advice that is great for players of all levels.”

Some readers, however, might want to know more than the book offers about the evolution of Goodman’s commitment to God and Judaism, which ran parallel to his basketball career. Though Goodman promises the story of how Jewish spirituality helped him navigate adversity, and ultimately triumph on the court, his book largely refrains from describing the intricacies and inspirations behind his faith.

Each chapter ends with a spiritual lesson in a series of sections called “Above the Rim,” with Goodman conveying spiritual lessons from preparation, focus, and awareness. But the book lacks a full chapter detailing Goodman’s relationships with Jewish mentors. Readers may find it difficult to believe that a young teenager growing up in the mixed culture of Baltimore never questioned his background or expressed frustration that his religion restricted his ability to participate in the sport he loved.

Goodman does describe how he dealt with anti-Semitism, recalling an incident during a college game in the south when a large group of students “suddenly erupted with a provocative chant about my kippah (yarmulke).” He writes that as a result of the verbal onslaught, his ego “started putting distracting thoughts into my mind” and made him wonder if his career “would go so much smoother if I just lost the kippah already.”

In an interview with JNS.org, Goodman said that in those situations, it was helpful to remember he was playing basketball for “something bigger” than his own ego, namely, for “the Jewish people and Israel.”

“If you play for something bigger than yourself, it helps you overcome adversity,” Goodman said.

Goodman, whose playing days ended in 2009, has transitioned from professional athlete to a new career as a coach and an inspirational speaker.Jewish Jordan’s Triple Threat shows that Goodman’s own character and spirituality are continuing to evolve in positive directions, and reading it will help other players and coachesdo the same.

—With reporting by Jacob Kamaras

Jeffrey F. Barken frequently reports on Israel news topics and Jewish-interest literature. A graduate of Cornell University and the University of Baltimore’s MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing, he is the author of “This Year in Jerusalem,” a collection of stories based on his experiences living on a kibbutz in Southern Israel from 2009-2010.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Sports Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    JNS.org – For Daphna Krupp, her daily workout (excluding Shabbat) at the Jewish Community Center (JCC or “J”) of Greater Baltimore has become somewhat of a ritual. She not only attends fitness classes but also engages with the instructors and plugs the J’s social programs on her personal Facebook page. “It’s the gym and the environment,” says Krupp. “It’s a great social network.” Krupp, who lives in Pikesville, Md., is one of an estimated 1 million American Jewish members of more [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated magazine featured an extensive profile on Orthodox-Jewish college basketball player Aaron Liberman on Wednesday.  The article details Liberman’s efforts to balance faith, academics and basketball at Tulane University, a challenge the young athlete calls “a triple major.” Sports Illustrated pointed out that Liberman is the second Orthodox student to play Division I college basketball. The other was Tamir Goodman, the so-called “Jewish Jordan.” As reported in The Algemeiner, Liberman started his NCAA career at Northwestern University. According to [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.