As the resident member of the tribe here at SPIKE, I felt mildly obligated to write something that celebrates the first night of Hanukkah – which my “12 months of Garfunkel” Hebrew calendar claims is this evening. So, I’ve put together a list of the 10 greatest Jewish athletes in sports today. Enjoy, and remember that it’s all fun and games till somebody burns down the house in a tragic Menorah accident.
10. Jordan Farmar, NBA Champion with the Los Angeles Lakers
Easily one of the 10 best players ever to suit up for the Temple Judea Day School, Farmar is the only NBA star to currently have both a Magen David and championship ring in his locker. His conservatively Jewish mother and Israeli stepfather helped the 23-year-old shooting guard perfect his skills and remain exceptionally proud that he leads all Lakers guards that haven’t been accused of sexually assaulting a teenager in both field goal percentage and offensive rebounds. Plus, he hasn’t received a single technical foul all year – what a mensch!
9. Marty Turco, All-Star Goaltender for the Dallas Stars
Hailing from the thriving Jewish community of Sault St. Marie, Ontario, when Turco wasn’t busy studying for his Bar Mitzvah or enjoying the musical stylings of Joseph Lieberman (he dabbles in some hardcore gangster rap), Turco was honing his skills on the rink where he would become the NHL’s best goaltender from October 2005 to slightly later in October of 2005. Turco remains the all-time leader in every major goaltending category for the Dallas Stars, surpassing Eddie Belfour (who may or may not be a Scientologist).
8. Sue Bird, WNBA All-Star and the League’s Only Mildly Attractive Player
Widely regarded as one of the top 10 players ever to play for the inevitably defunct WNBA, this talented Israeli citizen with a heart of gold and surprisingly impressive caboose has redefined what it means to be a female basketball star. By that, of course I mean not being so hideous that children are terrified to attend games. While many other she-beasts with partial Adam’s apples put fathers in an uncomfortable position every time their daughters ask “Daddy, will I have to get substantially uglier to be a pro ball player?” – Bird does the opposite thanks to her feminine features and uncanny ability to stroke the ball through the adorable little hoop that nobody in the league can dunk on.
7. Kane (a.k.a. Glen Jacobs – a.k.a. The Undertaker’s Brother – a.k.a. The Largest Jew Alive), Former WWF Heavyweight Champion
At just over seven-feet tall and tipping the scales at 323 pounds, this 15-time WWF champion does what most good Jewish boys do when they’re not busy power bombing Vader or burying their opponents alive - he gets involved in politics. Kane was a staunch supporter of Ron Paul in the 2008 Presidential Election and even spoke at the Liberty Forum at the Free State Project’s annual meeting, something he was prepared for through his work as the author of a “Citizen X” political blog and doing interviews with Bobby “the brain” Heenan.
6. Jason Lezak, Olympic Gold Medal Swimmer
Remember the guy who saved Michael Phelps’ eighth gold medal by absolutely destroying an annoying Frenchman in the final leg of the 2008 Olympic 4x100 swimming relay? Well, so do the members of his Synagogue’s congregation back in Irvine, California. Not only was Lesak’s performance at the Beijing games one of the greatest comebacks in sports history, but he did it in order to help his teammate break a record that a fellow Jew (Mark Spitz) previously held. There’s probably some sort of Hebrew word or Bible passage my grandfather would know for that – but I’ll just use the term “religious irony.”
5. Ian Kinsler, All-Star Second Baseman for the Texas Rangers
The son of a prison warden father and an adorable Jewish mother, Kinsler has become the most recognized Jewish athlete on the diamond since Shawn Green was baking hamantashen for Carlos Delgado in the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse. Kinsler is regarded by many pundits in the baseball world as the game’s most promising five-tool player (just like Green), but to the Jewish folks in Texas, Kinsler is more celebrated for his tireless charity work within their community, something that has garnered him several MLB awards.
4. Igor Olshansky, Dallas Cowboys Defensive End
Tony Romo may have his choice of semi-literate shiksas and Terrell Owens seems to have inexplicably mastered “Jewish Mother Guilt,” but Igor Olshansky remains the only player on the Dallas Cowboys roster to sport a massive Star of David tattoo and the ability to utilize a free trip to Israel through Birthright. After attending an Orthodox Jewish Day School in San Francisco (just like O.J. Simpson), Olshansky became a top recruit in the California high school scene who would elect to play at the University of Oregon and ultimately end up in the NFL. Olshansky, however, is not the toughest member of his family, despite being a 6-foot-6, 300-pound NFL stud. That honor goes to his grandfather, Abraham, who endured 11 gunshot wounds defending Jews in Russia - a story he was able to share with his grandson many years later.
3. Kevin Youkilis, All-Star First Baseman for the Boston Red Sox
Just like Sandy Koufax did for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1965, Kevin Youkilis refused to play baseball on Yom Kippur in a critical baseball game in order to observe the holy day. And, just like Koufax, his chat with the big guy upstairs led to good things as the Boston Red Sox went on to win their first World Series in 86 years several weeks later. (Youkilis also gets major points for once wearing a Hooters uniform through U.S. customs as part of a team dare. He may not exactly be Adam Sandler or Larry David, but it’s nice to see him keeping that Jewish sense of humor going through difficult road trips.)
2. Mike Cammalleri, Leading Scorer for the Montreal Canadiens
Not only does Cammalleri lead all Jewish Torontonians in penalty minutes and deli receipts, he’s also the sixth leading scorer in the entire NHL (right behind Alex Ovechkin…sadly, not a Jew). His quick hands and tremendous passing abilities make him one of the NHL’s most productive forwards and a real hit around the Passover Sedar come April, which coincides with the time his hometown Maple Leafs usually get mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
1. Ryan Braun, All-Star Left Fielder for the Milwaukee Brewers
You don’t get a nickname like the “The Hebrew Hammer” by refusing to do manual labor or spending Hanukkah with the women folk baking latkes. No, you do it by becoming one of the most dominant hitters in baseball and filming t-shirt commercials with Marissa Miller – one of the hottest “alleged” Jews in the Victoria Secret catalogue. Oh, and for people into stereotypes, Braun recently closed a real estate deal on a Malibu mansion that sold for $8.9 million in 2007. In 2009, Braun negotiated a deal to pay $4.85 million. Minus closing costs…thug life!
Souce: Jim Rogash/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images