The 15 Best Jewish Athletes

As a young Jewish boy, you don’t have many athletic role models to follow. Other kids yelled “Kobe” in youth basketball, but somehow, yelling “Shmulie” didn’t get the ball into the basket. But it turns out that the role models were out there all along; I just didn’t know about them. So I assembled this list to help young Jewish children as my avodah…

15. Oksana Baiul


Baiul –  the 1993 world champion and the 1994 Olympic champion in ladies’ singles ice skating – was raised in the Russian Orthodox Church but later discovered her Jewish heritage. In 2005, Baiul said, “Being Jewish, that feels good. It feels natural, like a second skin.” Exactly what I would say about my foreskin, had anyone given me the opportunity to keep it.

14. Larry Brown


Brown is better known as a Hall of Fame coach, but he was also an All-Star point guard in the ABA and NBA after playing for Dean Smith at North Carolina. And before that, he was just another nice Jewish boy from Long Beach High School in Long Island, which makes it that much worse that he can’t show his face in New York City anymore after what he did to the Knicks.

13. Shawn Green


Green drove in 100 runs four times and scored 100 runs four times and won both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger. Shawn Green may not be in Cooperstown, but in his mother’s heart, he’s the all-time greatest. Mrs. Green would always tell her mahjong partners about what Shawnie did the night before, proving that Jewish mothers were like Google Alerts before Google, keeping you up to date on every bit of information as it happened.

12. Amy Alcott


Amy Alcott captured 29 tournament LPGA titles and five majors during a 35-year career. Alcott won her 29th and last title at the 1991 Nabisco Dinah Shore and was admitted to the Hall of Fame in 1999, but everyone knows she’d been in the Matzo hunting HOF since 1980..

11. Ryan Braun


Braun is a great athlete but has been a bad, bad boy. Testing positive for PEDs is a blemish on his record, and while he was able to clear his name (sort of), he can’t ever clear the blemish that is making your parents think you’re a cheater, and maybe worse, that you’re dumb enough to get caught.

10. Max Baer


Baer joined Jewish Athlete Mount Rushmore when he defeated the German Max Schmeling for the heavyweight championship. Ring Magazine lists him as the 22nd best puncher and the No. 20 heavyweight of all time. Baer also set the record for JMHAG, which stands for Jewish Mother Heart Attacks Given. His mother’s tombstone reads “My neighbor’s son was a doctor, my Maxy decided to get a nose job the natural way.”

9. Nancy Lieberman


Nancy is in the WNBA Hall of Fame, the oldest player to play in a game at 50 years old, and the second woman to be an assistant in the NBA. She’s also a born-again Christian, but you know what they say: you can go to church and spend all day with a hair straightener, but you can’t escape “Lieberman.”

8. Sue Bird


Sue has had a ton of success and she achieved more before turning 40 than most people achieve in a whole lifetime, but her parents didn’t really care until she delivered grandkids.

7. Barney Ross


Ross was the third boxer ever to accomplish the triple championship, capturing the lightweight, junior welterweight, and welterweight championships. Barney was hard-nosed, and at the beginning of his career, his nose was also quite large (air is free, after all). Getting punched repeatedly in the kisser whittled it away, but although the punches might change the nose, they can’t change the man.

000;”>6. Dolph Schayes 


Schayes was named to the All-NBA First Team six times and Second Team six times. When he retired in 1964, he held the NBA records for games played and points. Schayes was an early basketball star, but his scouting report is really what makes him stand out: “Good defensive player, no long range shot, should call his mother more often.” – Mrs. Schayes, 1948.

5. Sid Luckman


Luckman was a star in Chicago.  In his 12 seasons with the Bears, they won four NFL Championships. He led the NFL in yards three times, in touchdowns three times, and in quarterback rating twice. He also led the Luckman family in being a mensch. If you needed a hug or a kind word, there’s Sid the Kid. He threw a whole butt load of touchdowns and a whole butt load of killer soirées. A connoisseur of lox and bagels, the man could smell matzo ball soup from a mile away. An NJB for the ages.

4. Dara Torres


Dara Torres is the most decorated female Jewish Olympian ever.  She competed in five Olympic games over a 24-year period, skipping the 1996 games in Atlanta and the 2004 games in Athens. Dara was known to walk around to all the swimmers and make sure they had eaten and would not let them get into the pool within 45 minutes of a meal…

3. Mark Spitz

A nine-time Olympic champion and former world record-holder in seven events, Spitz holds more medals than any other Jewish athlete in the history of the Olympics. Spitz was an all-time great athlete regardless of ethnicity, but boy oh boy did he feel chosen every time he swam. He looked like a fish in the sea instead of a Jew in Munich. Mark brought glory to the Spitz name – was he a doctor or a lawyer? No, but his mother is ready to forgive him for that.

2. Hank Greenberg


Greenberg had a batting average over .300 in eight seasons, and he was a member of four Tigers World Series teams, winning two championships (in 1935 and ’45). Greenberg was an early Jewish American sports superstar. The Hebrew Hammer, The Semitic Slammer, The Jewish Jackrabbit, none of these were his nicknames. But he was a Jew who could rip the seams off a baseball without his yarmulke moving an inch.

1. Sandy Koufax

One of the all-time greats. Not just with his feet on the mound but with his mind on the Torah. Koufax once sat out a World Series game because it was Yom Kippur, which puts him in the NJBHOF (Nice Jewish Boy Hall Of Fame). You can strike out as many batters as you want, but if you disappoint in front of the Lord, I don’t know what will happen. I didn’t pay attention in Hebrew School…

To Top