In recent articles this year, The Wall Street Journal and Sports Illustrated referred to Idan Ravin as the “Hoops Whisperer” because of his unique ability to engage, inspire and challenge the many NBA players he trains. Idan has worked with many of the NBA’s elite, including Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets), Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets), Gilbert Arenas (Washington Wizards), Lebron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), Elton Brand (Philadelphia 76ers), Jason Richardson (Phoenix Suns) and Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies).
I’m often asked whether the NBA players I train are “good guys.” It’s an interesting question because it suggests we are trying to find a way to personalize them and make them more familiar. Television, print, and the web bring these figures into our homes. We see them compete, do good deeds, and sometimes even mess up. What everyone wants to know is what they’re really like, and to that I say they are just like you and I. They have good days and bad days, they are sometimes carefree and sometimes careful, they make good decisions and bad, but what’s important for me to share with people is how to find inspiration from their unlikely journey.
Growing up, it was easy to say you wanted to be a doctor, lawyer, or banker. After all, these are traditional paths to take, and you likely knew someone that had taken that journey. It all made sense; if I go to school, get straight A’s, get good standardized test scores, and excel at my internship, then I will eventually reach my goal and succeed.
Now imagine an 8-year-old boy living in Brooklyn, New York (or Bologna, Vancouver, or Berlin), telling his mother that when he grows up he wants to play in the NBA. There are only 30 teams, 15 roster spots, and at least 20,000,000 guys that play the game of basketball around the world. The odds are frightening. Yet, each NBA player started at this point. It was a dream that anyone would call crazy.
The dream starts with one bounce of a ball and a hoop, somewhere in some park or gym around the world. For the sake of this story, lets call him John. John continues to play in the park and improve, and then he selects a high school and traveling team that compliments his style of play. At the age of 16, the stars lined up for John and he is one of only a handful of top basketball players around the country to be accepted to attend the small, but highly successful basketball program at a prep school in Oak Hill, VA.
If it all goes well, he receives a college basketball scholarship to a top ranked Division 1 program. He catches the eye of NBA scouts, who are projecting him to be a top 20 pick in the upcoming draft. John has to decide whether he is going to hire an agent and declare for the draft, or if he should stay in school. He selects an agent, signs a contract, and declares for the NBA Draft. He packs two bags and relocates to a new city to prepare. Each morning he wakes up at 6:30 a.m. to begin two hours of on-court training. After a grueling eight week long period, he is selected as the 17th pick and flies out the very next day to begin preparing for Summer League.
The stars line up yet again for John. Excelling in Summer League and again in Veterans Camp, he earns a starting spot on the team. He is lined up for his first play in his first NBA game, and in this time he learns to balance the ego of a team franchise player, an overbearing head coach, a team filled with veteran players, a complex playbook, a new city, a new life, media, and expectations from family and friends to become a provider for the first time in his life.
This was John’s journey, filled with uncertainty each step of the way, and yet he had an unshakeable resolve and commitment to his dream. He was resilient and intuitive. His journey required many tough decisions made without much guidance in order to find his way into this new world. I am inspired by John’s story, as the NBA is filled with guys just like him. In many ways we are not so different, and if you are a dreamer like me, you never think your dreams are crazy or far-fetched; you just accept the uncertainty, develop a talent for catching your balance on this very windy road, and find peace in your commitment.