As Tamir Goodman sat in his living room in January 2021 with his family during yet another of Israel's several Covid-related lockdowns, he received an email from his children's basketball coaches that would set him on a path to a new venture involving several NBA teams and upcoming sales in one of America's largest sporting-goods chains.
"We got an email saying we're not sure if we're ever going back to basketball practice, but if we do, every kid needs to bring their own basketball," says Goodman, adding that the new rule was intended to prevent the spread of germs.
For Goodman, who in 1999 was ranked the 25th-best high school player in the U.S. and had been dubbed "the Jewish Jordan" in the pages of Sports Illustrated, this news about basketball hit him hard. "I was like, I can't believe we've gotten to a point where we can't pass a basketball anymore," he says. Goodman had been especially highly regarded as a player for his vision and ability to pass to the open player. Passing a basketball is something he speaks about in terms that intertwine his religious beliefs about treating others equally and doing good for others.
But it was in that moment of Covid-created disappointment that he struck upon a product idea: In a sport where the ball regularly passes through a net, he asked, "Why don't we use the net as a cleaning device?" The product he envisioned--a net made of moisture-wicking, antimicrobial materials, which he's dubbed the Aviv Net--is now in use during games for a team in Europe's FIBA Champions League and at the basketball camp launched by the late Kobe Bryant, and is being beta-tested in practice facilities for four NBA teams, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Memphis.
Goodman and his business partner and investor David Warschawski, founder of the VC firm Warschawski Ventures, also have deals in place for the nets to be used at all games for the minor-league organization the Basketball League, and a verbal commitment from Dick's Sporting Goods to sell the nets with prominent placement in 50 stores. The Aviv Net is also a finalist in the NBA's Launchpad program, a competition to feature new products. The company declined to share sales figures, all of which have come from preorders.
In addition to earning a living through in-person basketball events, which were put on hold during Covid, Goodman hosts an annual basketball camp in Israel where he brings in former NBA players, like Hall of Famer Rick Barry, to work with a group of kids mostly visiting from America. He earns additional income working for the professional Hapoel Jerusalem basketball club, and in speaking engagements. Goodman has taken an entrepreneurial approach to basketball ever since he was a kid.
"I started doing basketball camps to help pay for my SAT classes," he says, explaining that he'd become the subject of national attention in choosing a college to attend.
While the antimicrobial aspect of the net is a natural point of emphasis during Covid--and is expected to be a selling point relating to cold and flu season in the long run--it's the moisture-wicking that could affect the game of basketball itself. Seeing staff mop moisture from the floors during breaks in basketball games is such a regular feature for fans that it's been replicated in video games. Less prominently, a slippery ball is a frequent hindrance.
"It constantly happens throughout a game, where a player says something to a referee, and the referee will dry the ball," says Goodman, who played seven years of professional ball. At higher levels of competition, sweat on the ball is such a common problem that in some situations, players know "instead of shooting [the ball], you'll just pass it because it's too slippery." Removing moisture automatically, through the net, would help eliminate that problem and speed up games.
Battling moisture with the Aviv Net was the goal for Thon Makur, a former NBA player who now plays for Hapoel Jerusalem. During a break in the action at a recent game, the seven-footer reached up to the Aviv Net and dried his hands.
Dealing with a slippery ball is one reason the Sports Academy, previously the Mamba Sports Academy, part-owned by the late Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, has decided to use the Aviv Nets. AJ Moye, a former professional basketball player and now master coach of the basketball program there, said that moisture becomes an increasingly large problem at higher levels of competition. "Those big men, they sweat a ton. That gets the ball very wet," Moye says. In his own high school career, he was playing against Kwame Brown, who would go on to be the number one pick in the 2001 NBA draft, and, says Moye, "We were right about to win the game at the end, and the ball slipped out of my hand."
Moye, who met Goodman when they were top high school prospects in 1999, says he thinks the nets "will be mandatory" because avoiding the spread of germs will be increasingly urgent. "I really feel that, in the climate of our modern-day society, there'll always be a global pandemic," he says, and finding ways to tamp down the spread of disease will be a persistent necessity.
For Goodman, there's a message of responsibility and inspiration in pushing forward with his nets idea during a dark time. "It was very meaningful for me, as I believe I was taught, if God shows you something that you can fix, then it's your job to fix it," he says. He described his effort as a kind of natural destination for his lifelong basketball journey. "I love the game so much," he says, so "to create something that lets players play better, it's probably in a lot of ways one of the greatest accomplishments of my career -- to still be involved in the game, even though I can't play anymore, to affect the next generation of players."