Goodman comes home

Tamir's `miracle'

Minor league club gets `Jewish Jordan' back to state

December 06, 2007|By DAVID STEELE

Bethesda — Bethesda-- --Tamir Goodman's new team has pulled publicity stunts before. Within the past two years, the Maryland Nighthawks minor league basketball team has put then-Raven Adalius Thomas, past-his-NBA-prime Gheorghe Muresan and a 7-foot-9 Chinese player in uniform and trumpeted the hiring of "a Boeheim" to coach. It was Barbara Boeheim, sister of the Hall of Fame Syracuse coach.

For anyone who has had to filter through announcements like this, word that the team has now signed "the Jewish Jordan" - with apologies to Goodman, who has never been fond of that nickname - has to be greeted with skepticism.

Goodman himself, however, was not skeptical at all. Quite the opposite. "It's really a miracle," he kept saying yesterday.

After the hoops he has leaped through (no pun intended) to be both a basketball player and an observant Orthodox Jew, Goodman, now 25, was not going to allow the culmination of his dream - to come home, play real, legit ball and still observe the tenets of his faith, no compromises - to be tied to a cheap ticket-selling ploy.

"Up until a couple of months ago," Goodman said, "I thought I'd finish my career in Israel, because where else in the world would I have been able to play without playing on the Sabbath?"

If someone had answered, "In your home state," he would have laughed - not in a hurtful way, of course, because he doesn't appear to have a mean bone in his body. Still, that seemed preposterous, especially after his experiences with Maryland and Towson.

He wasn't looking to come back to the States to play, he said; the Nighthawks, and their owner, Tom Doyle, a native of Montgomery County and a College Park grad, came and found him. The bottom line: The franchise and the league will accommodate him. No questions asked.

Suddenly, barely two months after an intermediary brought Doyle and Goodman together and two weeks after landing back in town, Goodman found himself the center of attention again. He stood in a ballroom in the Nighthawks' new home gym at Georgetown Prep, in front of an audience that included his older brother David, less than an hour away from his parents' Pikesville home, and talked about the final compromise of his life disappearing.

"This," he said of being back in Baltimore, "is more of who I am."

To be honest, no one denies Goodman will sell tickets to Nighthawks games, at their home gym and at the other venues in the newly formed Premier Basketball League. It would be hard to find a current player from this area whose name has more instant recognition and cachet, and that includes Carmelo Anthony, Sam Cassell, Juan Dixon and the rest of Baltimore's NBA contingent. Even now, nearly a decade later, who doesn't know at least a little of his story?

The family-friendly, community-connected philosophy of the new league appeals to him, he said, because of how Jewish fans in the area embraced, supported and defended him. He can now make a new kind of statement to them about what is possible, and they can take it to heart.

"We're taught always to give thanks for all that we're given," Goodman said, "and I hope the community will give thanks as much as possible for what the Nighthawks are doing."

Doyle saw the same possibilities - but not in the way he had before, when the Nighthawks were more part of the American Basketball Association sideshow, desperate to pull in fans to stay afloat with ever-changing franchises, owners, sites and players. The new league, at first glance, appears far more stable.

Thus, no freak-show quickie cameo with the superhyped phenom who could knock down threes all day and night, except between sundown Friday and Saturday. "I know what we've done before, but that's not what this is about," Doyle said. "This is too important to us, and it's too important to him."

Important to everybody who has been touched somehow by his story. Including those closest to him. His brother said he and their father were definitely going to be at every game, to make up for the years they couldn't see him play in Israel.

"I've planned my life around this day," David Goodman said.

Miracles do happen. And not just for one night only, before the carnival moves to the next town.

david.steele@baltsun.com

Listen to David Steele Tuesdays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).

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