Jordan Farmar revived and updated the tradition of the Jewish point guard this year as he led the UCLA Bruins into the National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball?hampionship game in April. The product of an interfaith family, Farmar was bar mitzvahed at Temple Judea in the Tarzana section of Los Angeles. Seven years later, as a college sophomore, he was in the NCAA title game, leading his team in scoring and assists in what turned out to be a losing effort. Farmar decided to leave school early and wound up drafted in the first round by his hometown Los Angeles Lakers. In his first game as a pro last week, the 19-year-old knocked down all three of his shots, displaying the poise that has served him well from the synagogue podium to the basketball court. He arrives in the National Basketball Association just in time to give Los Angeles a new Jewish sports idol as Shawn Green resurfaces in New York.
Two years ago, Shawn Green, 34, made the Forward 50 for a single act: sitting out a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game on Yom Kippur. Fans rhapsodized that his no-show had earned him a spot in an honor roll of Jewish sports heroes stretching back to Sandy Koufax in the 1960s and Hank Greenberg in the 1930s — genuine stars who remember their roots. That was when he was one of the game’s star sluggers. This past August, after a year and a half with the Arizona Diamondbacks, he was traded to the New York Mets, part of general manager Omar Minaya’s strategy of building fan loyalty by appealing to New York’s ethnic groups. It quickly became evident that Green’s best years were behind him. Still, his reception in the Big Apple was one of the strongest of his career. “The messiah has arrived,” read a fan’s hand-made sign at Green’s Shea Stadium debut. He didn’t lead the Mets to the promised land of the World Series, but traditional success was never really the point. With Green at the plate, the game had a new urgency for Jewish fans: It was as though we were standing right there with him. Not even a box seat can bring you that close to the action.