Tamir Goodman retires at 27
NEW YORK -- Of course Tamir Goodman would still be starring on the basketball court now.
He had no reason to doubt a long, bright future a decade ago, when hoops fans around the country knew his name -- or at least the nickname applied to him, "The Jewish Jordan." The skinny teenager had orally committed to Maryland, and every major media outlet seemingly wanted to talk to the Orthodox Jew poised to play at college basketball's loftiest level.
"I did not think I'd be retiring at 27 -- there's no way," Goodman said Wednesday after a news conference held not at an arena but at a Brooklyn museum dedicated to Jewish children.
"But I have learned it's been perfectly ordained, and it's a better plan than what I thought to myself."
That scholarship to Maryland never came to be after a disagreement with the coaching staff. He instead attended less-glamourous Towson, where his career lasted less than two years. Goodman then signed with the Israeli pro league, playing for four teams in five seasons amid a succession of injuries.
Regret? Disappointment? Goodman swats away such suggestions with a content smile.
"Now I'm at the point where I just can't physically play anymore," he said. "I know I gave 1,000 percent every day, so it makes it easier for this transition, which is even more beautiful."
Goodman will serve as director of Haifa Hoops for Kids, a new charity affiliated with Maccabi Haifa, his last team in Israel. The program provides free tickets to special needs and underprivileged children.
It was basketball that thrust fame onto the student at a tiny Jewish day school near Baltimore. The 6-foot-3, 159-pound Goodman averaged 35.4 points as a junior at the Talmudical Academy.
He wore a yarmulke on the court and wouldn't play on the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday -- and he was headed to Maryland.
"I think God protected me in that I was very naive back then," he said. "I didn't understand what was going on."
Goodman struggled through injuries the summer between his junior and senior years, and the whispers grew that he wasn't Atlantic Coast Conference material. After meeting with Maryland coach Gary Williams in September 1999, Goodman announced he wouldn't become a Terrapin after all, saying there was friction over his refusal to play on the Sabbath.
Towson agreed to schedule its games so there wouldn't be any conflicts. As a freshman, he averaged 6.0 points and 4.0 assists in 23 starts. But his playing time decreased following a coaching change -- and then it was all over.
Goodman filed a police complaint after a game in December 2001, accusing coach Michael Hunt of holding a chair over the player's head in a frightening manner and kicking a stool that hit Goodman's leg. He later asked prosecutors not to pursue assault charges, but didn't return to the team.
"I was completely broken, spiritually, physically," Goodman said. "I didn't want anything to do with basketball."
He rediscovered his passion after finishing out the school year, when he signed with Israeli pro team Maccabi Tel Aviv. But then he blew out his knee. And fought an infection in the same knee. And seriously injured one hand, then the other.
And yet he says, "I'm very grateful that I was able to live out my dream."
He has new dreams to live as the father of three young children.
"In some ways I think I've experienced a lot more than a lot of 27-year-olds," Goodman said. "But I feel like the most blessed person in the world."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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