Tamir Goodman Brings Life Lessons to Beachwood Basketball Camp
Cleveland pro basketball player Omri Casspi will team up with Goodman to teach kids on- and off-the-court values
Tamir Goodman admits that he expected media attention when he turned down a full scholarship to the University of Maryland in 1999 because he would not play on Shabbat. And Goodman got the attention — later named by Yahoo! News as one of the most-hyped professional athletes ever.
Now, the Orthodox Jew runs a non-profit company in Beachwood that combines faith and basketball.
This summer, Goodman joins forces with fellow observer and Cleveland pro basketball player Omri Casspi to run a basketball camp that stresses values like teamwork, respect and self-esteem.
“Both Omri and I understand the value, the deeper meaning in basketball; how a young athlete could grow so much in their life through basketball. Basketball is the tool. Kids understand basketball concepts,” said Goodman. “It’s the same values that you need to be successful in basketball that you need to be successful in life.”
Goodman said that he was first noticed at an invitational basketball camp during his sophomore year of high school (obviously, being the only lanky, red-headed high scorer wearing a yarmulke on the court).
A cover story in Sports Illustrated dubbing him the “Jewish Jordan” followed soon after, and the media frenzy began.
By the time of the scholarship refusal, Goodman had switched high schools because his small private school’s gym could not seat the couple thousand people who came to watch him play basketball. The week he was offered the scholarship from the University of Maryland, he received 700 media requests.
But when it became clear that Friday night and Saturday practices would be mandatory, Goodman changed his mind.
Goodman’s grandparents are Holocaust survivors, and Goodman grew up hearing stories of Jews sacrificing their livelihoods for Shabbat.
“[Shabbat] is a time to thank God, and reconnect with our purpose and our mission in the world, and spend time with our family and pray,” Goodman said. “But basketball was so intense, I didn’t feel like I could play that level on Shabbat.”
He calls what happened next “a miracle.”
Towson University heard about the Shabbat conflict and called Goodman to tell him that they had changed their season’s schedule. There would be no games or practices on Saturdays, and they wanted the Jewish Jordan on their team.
Goodman played at Towson for a season, then moved to Israel. There, he played professionally for Maccabi Tel-Aviv, volunteered in the Israeli Army, and met his future wife, Beachwood native Judy Horwitz.
Horwitz, like him, was an excellent high school athlete, making all-conference at Beachwood High School in her junior and senior years in cross-country and track. And, like him, she did not compete or practice on Shabbat.
Horwitz, the daughter of longtime area coach Harvey Horwitz, attended Bar Ilan University in Israel.
“It was kind of a natural thing: they met and they could play one-on-one together,” said Harvey Horwitz, who's coached track and football for periods of time at Cleveland Heights and Beachwood High Schools since 1975.
“I felt kind of bad when she would beat him," Horwitz laughed. "She’s got a great outside shot.”
The two were engaged within two weeks of meeting, said Goodman.
Meanwhile, Goodman’s six-year professional career was spotted with knee and hand injuries. In 2009, he announced that he would retire, and Horwitz, Goodman and their four kids moved to Northeast Ohio.
You won’t hear Goodman complain about his basketball career, or regret the decisions that he has made, and he called his injuries a “blessing in disguise.”
“I could have easily reacted to that in a negative way and been really sad, or I could have reacted to that and said, wow, I got to experience so many things on this journey that I’ve been on,” he said. “How can I use all those experiences to as a way to inspire other athletes and kids?”
Through Coolanu, Goodman offers basketball camps based on core Jewish values and Jewish identity, training in his coaching style and basketball and community service programs for Jewish kids visiting Israel.
In a separate, for-profit company, he’s developed and sells basketball teaching aids and a tzitzit — a garment worn by some Jews under their clothing — that’s suitable to wear while playing sports.
This year he is teaming up with Casspi, who was traded to the Cavaliers in 2011, to run a camp through Goodman's for-profit company.
The camp will be held at The Agnon School, Beachwood Middle School and Fuchs Mizrachi three Sundays this June. Spots are still available, and kids do not have to be Jewish — or great athletes — to benefit from the lessons he teaches.
Goodman called Casspi a role model, especially because he has stayed rooted despite his fame as the first Israeli to make it to the NBA.
And he hopes he can be a role model, too.
“It’s really more important what we’re doing now than when I was actually playing because I feel like I could enhance more kids’ lives this way. It’s very clear to me that everything I’ve gone through in my career wasn’t just for me to experience, but I went through it so I could use it to help up-and-coming athletes.”
The Omri Casspi Basketball Camp in Partnership with Tamir Goodman still has spots available, and any kids in first to eighth grades can attend. Click here for more details.