Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Look Back---Tamir Goodman, "Jewish Jordan"

= Like Mike, Only Jewish

If you have a radio in your car, and anything resembling a commute, chances are you have heard the Hasidic stylings of Matisyahu, the Jewish rapper/reggae star. Born Matthew Paul Miller (perhaps his parents intended for him to be a serial killer), Matisyahu is a bit of a contradiction. In an industry that now celebrates "crunk" and the street life, Matisyahu tends to glorify things like Joseph's saving of the people of Egypt. He's a latter day Jewish Bob Marley, if you will.

Matisyahu's recent success reminds us of another famous member of the chosen people, Tamir Goodman. Dubbed "The Jewish Jordan" by Sports Illustrated for his skills on the basketball court, Goodman was a media darling in the late 1990s for his jumpshot and his uncompromising devotion to his chosen faith. He took up the game at six years old, by his sophomore year at Talmudical Academy was already averaging 27 ppg and impressed many of the scouts who came out to see him play. There was only one caveat: he refused to play games on Saturday during the Jewish sabbath.

Nevertheless, the University of Maryland offered him a scholarship, vowing to schedule as few games as possible on Saturday afternoons. But I guess the Terrapins didn't think Goodman was as important as Steve Blake or Steve Francis (perhaps if his name were Steve Goodman?). They failed to accomodate his schedule, and he handed back a scholarship that would have allowed him to play on an ACC basketball powerhouse team.

He ended up playing at a school close to his hometown outside of Baltimore, Towson University. Towson is certainly not a household name, though it can boast of famous alumni such as NFL kick-returner Dave Meggett and actor John Glover (the father of Lex Luthor on Smallville). But Goodman thrived under coach Mike Jaskulski, and averaged close to 6 points per game his freshman season. Jaskulski was ultimately fired for his team's poor performance, and the school ironically brought in a coach that Goodman claimed was anti-semitic. The new coach Michael Hunt (who I doubt ever went by a shortened first name) allegedly kicked a stool into Goodman in 2001, and the boy once dubbed the Jewish Jordan walked away from college basketball forever.

So where is our favorite yarmulke-wearing baller now? He dropped out of Towson completely, taking up an offer to play with Maccabi Tel Aviv, a powerhouse in the European league. He has since played on a number of other Israeli professional teams, gotten married, had a child and served his time in the Israeli army (see above picture). He has since returned to the United States (not 100% sure if that is a permanent move), and hit the speaker circuit with other famous Jewish celebrities such as rapper Etan G and mentalist Marc Salem.

Goodman once said: "I remember when I was a kid how many times people told me that because I was religious I could not play sports. I want to show kids that if you try to use (your talent) in the right way, Hashem is going to be there to knock down all the doors so you can be successful." (source) And so it was that Tamir Goodman, aka Jewish Jordan, knocked down not only doors, but jumpshots to enter our collective conscious. So while Steve Francis and Steve Blake make the big bucks in the NBA, Goodman is scoring points with Hashem, the ultimate commissioner of basketball (sorry David Stern).

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