Last we checked in with Aaron Liberman–the so-called Jewish Dwight Howard–we were advocating collective restraint from the unreasonable fervor that often accompanies Jewish athletes into the spotlight. In the past, such expectations have felled the hopes of fans waiting for the Tamir Goodmans and Jay Fiedlers to become the bona fide stars they did not become.
Thanks to humanity and the Times, which featured a profile on him over the weekend titled “Studying X’s, O’s and the Torah,” the bar for Liberman, who walked onto Northwestern University’s basketball team this season, will likely be just as irrationally high as it was for those who came before him.
Liberman chose Northwestern over Georgetown and Southern California, and made the team as a preferred walk-on, meaning he was recruited but not given a scholarship. The fact that there was an Orthodox community near campus factored into his decision. Through his parents, he connected with a Jewish chaplain, and now Liberman lives in the family’s basement.
“I try to stay away from the party scene,” Liberman said. “It’s not a very Jewish lifestyle.”
He then motioned to his big-screen television and PlayStation 3 and added, “These are a little more college.”
Northwestern has made arrangements so that he never has to fly on the Sabbath. He takes separate flights if necessary. The university is also designing special skullcaps for him that Under Armour, Northwestern’s apparel sponsor, is having made by a company called Klipped Kippahs.
What’s hilarious about this profile is that Liberman again and again says that would prefer to not be narrowly defined as a Jewish player and has a desire to keep a low profile. And yet, the story returns again and again to his biography and not his game. And then it ends with this:
He mentioned that he might have interest in playing professionally in Israel after college, but his next hurdle is learning Carmody’s complex Princeton offense. As he tries to master that, one thought comforts him.
“It’s not as complicated as the Torah,” Liberman said.
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.