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 Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater 10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    Last month, my one-man show Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran ran in the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an Overall Excellence Award. The play has now been selected to run in the Fringe Encores Series at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center, for four performances which started on Thursday, September 11. Getting the play to the stage was not easy, however. Here are [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Phenomenon: Tel Aviv-based musician and “sampler” extraordinaire, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) has hit another one out of the park with “Give It Up,” a fully-functioning song in its own right, assembled from hundreds of ameteur and instructional music videos. The Jerusalem-born musical prodigy is best know for his diverse online musical projects. In the latest video, uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 12th, Kutiel thanked most of the musicians and individuals he chose to include in the meticulously-edited clip, which opens with [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    A recently released behind-the-scenes reel of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings shows just how far the director has gone to portray one of the Bible’s most famous narratives. In the clip, which shows scenes involving up to 4,000 extras, the visionary director discusses what drew him to the biblical tale of Moses. “The Moses story was a massive challenge, which I really love. I wanted to explore the complexity of his character and I was stunned by [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    JNS.org – Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable and satellite TV network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film,” whose first segment aired Sept. 2, runs [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.