Tamir Goodman is best known as the Jewish Michael Jordan. He was ranked among the top high school players in New York. He’s also the founder of Aviv Sports, a tech startup that has developed sports equipment innovation, and recently announced the launch of the first-ever moisture-wicking and antimicrobial basketball net.
I talked to Tamir about the benefits of being an observant Jew in the professional basketball world, how today’s sports world differs from the one of twenty years ago, and about founding Aviv Sports. I invite you to watch the video interview and check out my quick-fire Q&A with him.
Q: What is your earliest memory of basketball?
My earliest memory of basketball is training in my backyard in Baltimore, Maryland.
Q: Did you always know you wanted to be a professional basketball player?
When I was 8 or 9 years old, I looked at my hands in my backyard, and I set myself a goal- that I wanted to be a division one basketball player and a professional basketball player without playing on Shabbat.
Q: What kept you motivated to become a professional basketball player in a secular world, despite the challenges of being an observant Jew?
I didn’t view it as a secular world, meaning- I grew up in a house where Judaism would unite the physical with the spiritual. It was all one thing. Hashem sends every person on their own unique mission as an ambassador to try to uplift the physical and make it more spiritual. So for me, that meant I could play basketball, but I had to try to play for the right reasons and right intentions and use the Torah as a blueprint to help me be the best basketball player I could be. So there was no separating between a secular world and a nonsecular world. It was all one thing for me, and I’m very grateful for those teachings because they helped me through the ups and downs of my career.
Q: What role does Zionism/Judaism play in your life and career?
Judaism and Zionism- to me, it’s all one thing. It’s everything to me. I never viewed myself as a basketball player; I viewed myself as a Jewish basketball player. Even when I played in America, I tried to represent Israel as well as possible, and ultimately when the opportunity came to play professionally in Israel, that was more than a dream come true for me. In our seventh-grade yearbook, we all got to write what we wanted to be when we grow up, and I wrote, “I want to be a professional basketball player in Israel,” so I’m very lucky that I got to live out my dream. My grandmother was a holocaust survivor and living in Israel, so I was very happy that I got to come and be with her as well.
Q: What inspired you to start a basketball camp?
Basketball camps were a big part of my life; they enhanced my life so much. I wanted to give back. I wanted to give the lessons that were so valuable to me that I learned from basketball camps over to the next generation of players, on and off the court. World-class skills- but also the aspects of what it takes- the teamwork, the discipline, the mental toughness, the resilience, the time management, pushing yourself, the transcendence, everything that comes along with the game I wanted to give back to the next generation players.
Q: What motivated you to take a break from basketball and serve in the IDF and make Aliyah?
I wanted to honor my grandmother, who was a holocaust survivor.
Q: What is one thing you know about Israel that even her greatest supporters may not know?
I think that every single day it has a magical connection and has the amazing ability to unite past, present, and future. I think that’s something that’s so magical that maybe not a lot of people know, but I feel it every day anew, and that to me is something very unique.
Q: Share an only-in-Israel moment. (we all have at least one!)
Only in Israel moments happen all the time, almost every day here. A recent one is I left my cellphone in a cab, and the amount of effort the cab driver put into getting in touch with me, finding out where I live, and driving 45 minutes to get where we were to bring me the phone. That was an only-in-Israel moment.
Another one, I recently sent one of my nets out to a customer to a professional team, and the nets got lost somewhere in translation, and at like 9 o’clock at night, I got a call from a personal number. I pick up, and he says, “I’m the head of the branch of the post office where you sent the nets from, and I just wanted to let you know I’m not gonna quit until I find out where your nets are; I’m gonna make sure they get to the right team.” That was really cool; that was an only in Israel moment.
Q: What’s your favorite Israeli snack or cuisine?
My favorite Israeli cuisine is always going to be Israeli salad- I love Israeli salad.
Q: What message do you wish you could get through to the world about Israel?
Israel’s a great example of what a country should be. Everyone gets a good education; everyone gets their health taken care of, there’s great diversity here, there’s a great future here, there’s great unity here, there’s great respect here. And there’s great history here.
Q: Tell us about your startup. Does it have any clients yet?
Yes- the AVIV net is going really, really well; it’s the first-ever antimicrobial moisture-wicking net. There’s a press release going out today about the first professional league that we signed with, and they have 42 teams across America and Canada. We have a lot of other very exciting updates about our clients as well that we will be sharing in the next few days.