Tamir Goodman has had a dream ever since he was a little boy. He wanted to share his love of G‑d with the world. He wanted to fight for his people, and to help them understand their place in the world and their unique mission. But unlike many religious Jews, Tamir did not reach out by becoming a rabbi as did his brother, who is a Chabad emissary. Tamir was convinced there was another way for him to achieve his goal: through basketball.

Tamir excelled at the sport from a very young age. In fact, he was so good that: "I got invited to play at the Michael Jordan Capital Classic. I won Most Valuable Player, and I was the first Jewish player to win that." He soon found himself the center of a media firestorm. He was featured in Sports Illustrated and interviewed by ESPN, 60 Minutes and Fox Sports. Eventually, he was offered a place on the University of Maryland basketball team. But he turned it down, "because they played on Shabbat."

As I was talking to Tamir, I couldn't help but wonder if it bothered him that he gave up the potential to be one of the biggest stars in America and become famous the world over. But again and again, he seemed to be totally confident in his choices, as if they were not choices at all. To him, not playing on Shabbat was a blessing. As he said, "I always knew my basketball came from G‑d, and I knew that if you watch after Shabbat, Shabbat will watch after you."

Over the past few years, Tamir Goodman has found one home after another to play basketball. He started out at Towson College, which he loved. "The conference changed their entire schedule so I wouldn't have to play on Shabbat," he related. But after Tamir's first year, the coach who had gone to such lengths to accommodate him was fired, and Tamir decided to move on. He moved to Israel, "I signed a three year contract with Maccabi Tel-Aviv, and I became the first basketball player not to play on Shabbat or the holidays." After this, he served in the military, got married, and rejoined Maccabi, this time for Maccabi Haifa. So far, he plans to stay.

Tamir's greatest strength has been that he does not see basketball as an end to itself. For someone with so much skill, Tamir is incredibly humble. He claims that basketball is only "a tool." A tool for what? Growing up. "I always heard in my Chabad synagogue that we had to make a physical dwelling place for G‑d, and we all have to do it in our own way. I knew no other way but basketball."

 Tamir volunteering at Camp Ruach
Tamir volunteering at Camp Ruach

And so now Tamir, who is in Israel playing basketball, can do what he has always dreamed of: truly change the world. He has transformed the action of throwing a ball in a hoop, of jumping around a wood court, into a holy activity. How has he done this? Just ask his fans.

From a lawyer who told him, "I never put on my kippah in court until I saw you play with your kippah" to his fellow athletes, from all over the world, who contact him asking how to be observant and still be involved in their sports, Tamir has been able to effect people just by living the life he leads— proudly, with his head held high.

"One time, we were playing a very intense game, in a college tournament, " remembers Tamir, " and I dove on a ball, and another guy dived at the same time. He ran into me and gave me a small concussion. When I got up, everyone was up and smiling and clapping, and I didn't understand why they were cheering. When I reviewed the tape, though, I found out that my non-Jewish teammate had picked up my kippah and put it on my head, and because of that thousands of people got up and applauded."

While many of us might be afraid of playing with a kippah among non-Jews, Tamir has shown that being proud of oneself only helps relations with others. Although his roommate in college was Muslim, the two got along well, to the point that his roommate would turn off the TV whenever Tamir would come home on Shabbat.

But Tamir is not just passively doing his part. No, he is pulling G‑d down to earth with all his professionally trained strength. Every summer, he does as many speaking engagements as he can. In addition, Tamir explained that he and his Haifa basketball team "set up a program called Haifa Hoops for Kids, where we use basketball as a tool to get people closer to Israel and closer to their heritage." The program is for kids from all over the spectrum, and some of the participants are from disadvantaged backgrounds.

"The bottom line is a love for G‑d, and basketball is just a tool."

And while Tamir takes his job incredibly seriously, pushing himself "till tears every day," he only does it "because I know that's what G‑d expects from me."

"Everyone has their mission. No one's mission is more important than the other," Tamir stated. The goal, he believes, is that we all work ourselves to tears every day until we shoot the winning shot in the fourth quarter and come out victorious.

See Tamir's website at: tamirgoodman.com