Navigate to News section

Aaron Liberman Makes NCAA Big Ten History

‘Jewish Dwight Howard’ the first player to sport a yarmulke during a game

Stephanie Butnick
January 07, 2014
Northwestern's Aaron Liberman.(Big Ten Network)
Northwestern's Aaron Liberman.(Big Ten Network)

Northwestern University basketball walk-on Aaron Liberman may have only played a single minute in Sunday’s game against the University of Michigan, and Northwestern may have been defeated 74 to 51, but the Orthodox player nicknamed the Jewish Dwight Howard still managed to make college basketball history. He’s the first Big Ten player to ever wear a yarmulke during a game.

Liberman, a graduate of LA’s Valley Torah High School, is the second yarmulke-sporting player in Division I basketball. The other, of course, is Tamir Goodman—the so-called Jewish Jordan—who played briefly for Towson University in the early 2000s (Goodman, who later played for Maccabi Tel Aviv, retired from professional basketball in 2009; he now teaches basketball clinics and has a line of sports-friendly mesh tzitzit).

The college freshman’s growing legend was fueled by a New York Times profile in January, which contrasted his diligent Torah study with his life on the court (plus the requisite tefillin-laying scene). Though the ‘Jewish Dwight Howard’ moniker might be a lot to foist upon a young player (see: Jewish Jordan), Liberman seems to be keeping his cool. And speaking of cool, he apparently has two game-day yarmulkes: purple and white, and purple and black, in keeping with the Wildcats’ color scheme.

Let’s go Wildcats? Let’s go Wildcats.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.