Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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...

  • Blogs Book Reviews Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    It is cocktail hour on an April afternoon in 2004. The sun is hot on Amsterdam’s canals, and I am sitting at Café den Leeuw on the Herengracht with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali is still a member of the Dutch Parliament, and we talk about Islam. Specifically, we talk about the concept of “moderate Islam,” or what she calls “liberal Islam.” And she has one word for it. “It’s absurd,” she says. “It’s complete nonsense. There is no ‘liberal […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    Everybody knows that cooking varies from country to country. There are Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, etc. We associate different styles of cuisine with different languages. Do we also think of the association of different cuisines with different dialects? We should, because cooking also varies from region to region. Litvaks and Galitsyaners have their own traditions of preparing gefilte fish. Marvin I. Herzog, in his book The Yiddish Language in Northern Poland: Its Geography and History (Indiana University, Bloomington, and Mouton & Co., The […]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    An analysis of New York Times wedding announcements showed that women married in Jewish ceremonies were less likely to take their husband’s last names than those married in Roman Catholic ceremonies, the Times reported on Saturday. The largest gap between the two groups was in 1995 when 66 percent of Catholic women took their husband’s names and 33 percent of Jewish women did the same. Nearly half of the women featured in the publication’s wedding pages since 1985 took their husband’s name after marriage, while about […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    JNS.org – Through appreciation of both his comedy and humanitarian work, legendary Jewish entertainer Jerry Lewis is staying relevant at age 89. The only comic to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Lewis added another award to his trophy case in April, when he received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Gordon Smith, NAB’s president and CEO, said the organization was “honored to recognize not only [Lewis’s] comedic innovation, but also his remarkable […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli athletes marked a successful day on Sunday, as gymnasts won multiple bronze and silver medals in the 2015 European Games in Baku. The Gymnastics team won two silver medals and one bronze in group events, while Neta Rivkin, an Israeli Olympic gymnast, won bronze for the Solo Hoops event. Sunday’s gymnastics wins follow Sergey Richter’s bronze on June 16 for the Men’s 10 meter air-rifle, and Ilana Kratysh’s silver for women’s freestyle wrestling. The 2015 European Games in Baku are […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Russian-American Jews are some of the most successful ballroom dancing competitors in the U.S., South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) Radio reported on Thursday. Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Jewish history at Brandeis University, said their success can be traced back to Jewish discrimination in the former Soviet Union. Because of the prejudice they faced, Russian Jews had to perform better than their peers in every field, including dancing, in order to have a chance of getting ahead. “They knew that if they […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    An Israeli dancer made use of Jewish props in an extraordinary routine that left judges amazed when he auditioned for season 12 of TV dance competition So You Think You Can Dance on Monday. At first, the panel of judges appeared confused when Asaf Goren, 23, began his audition in Los Angeles with a tallit (prayer shawl) over his head and the blowing of a shofar, which he explained “opens the sky” for people’s prayers. However, as soon as he started his “Hebrew breaking” performance, […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    JNS.org – A fairytale ending to Jewish basketball coach David Blatt’s first season in the National Basketball Association (NBA) was not meant to be, as the Blatt-led Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night dropped Game 6 of the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors, 105-97, to lose the best-of-seven series 4-2. Blatt, who just last year coached Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv franchise to a European basketball championship, failed to finish a second straight hoops season on top. But after the Cavaliers began the NBA […]

    Read more →