By Jacob Kamaras/JNS.org
Before last year, basketball
camps for Jewish youths never had an instructor quite like Omri Casspi, a
forward for the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Cleveland Cavaliers and
the first Israeli-born player in NBA history.
Tamir Goodman (left) and NBA forward Omri Casspi–pictured on the court of the United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls–together run basketball camps that seek to inspire youths on and off the court. Credit: Courtesy Tamir Goodman.
Casspi is a de facto
ambassador for the Jewish state in his sport, and his business partner Tamir Goodman–a
nationally ranked high school basketball player who went on to play
collegiately for Towson University (a school in Division I, the highest level
of college sports) and professionally in Israel–also knows the feeling. As an observant
Jew, Goodman sported his yarmulke on the court in front of national television
“I’ve experienced what it’s
like trying to be the best ambassador as possible for Israel and the Jewish
people,” Goodman, 31, told JNS.org.
Casspi and Goodman, who played
against each other in Israeli professional basketball, are now teammates in a
venture that aims to inspire a new generation of Jewish athletes. The second
summer of their five-day basketball camps “designed to improve skills in a
positive and Jewishly spirited environment” is scheduled for two upcoming sessions,
June 30-July 4 in Englewood, NJ, and July 7-11 in Boston.
Goodman, who in high school
earned the nickname “Jewish Jordan” and was profiled by Sports Illustrated magazine, retired from on-court action in 2009
to pursue a new career as a
coach and an inspirational speaker. He moved from Israel to Cleveland, the
hometown of his wife.
The 24-year-old Casspi, who started
his NBA career with the Sacramento Kings, was traded to Cleveland in the summer
of 2011, prompting the local newspaper, the Cleveland
Plain Dealer, to call up Goodman and ask him about the deal. Goodman
recalled he was “so happy and excited” to hear that Casspi was traded to his
Casspi’s publicist eventually
reached out to Goodman, and the next day, Casspi himself called.
“We just connected right
away,” Goodman said. “I went down to his house to meet with him and we just
started talking, we just continued talking, and talking, and talking. We really
have a lot in common, we played with a lot of the same players in Israel, and
played for some of the same coaches, and it was just really fun to talk to him
Casspi and Goodman
ultimately decided to partner on basketball camps. More than 100 children, up
to the 8th grade, attended last year’s camps, and so far 80 are signed up for
this summer, in which the camp will expand to 1st through 12th grade.
The goal of the five-day
camps is to “try to get each kid to reach their potential” both on and off the
court, Goodman said. Each day starts with a theme–such as humility or
friendship–that is taught through a personal narrative, and then through actual
“They’ll get a lot out of
those five days, a lot physically, emotionally, spiritually,” Goodman said of