Photo: Henry S. Dziekan III (Getty Images)
Idan Ravin is one of the top basketball trainers in the world, working with the most recognizable NBA and WNBA players, including LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Carmelo Anthony and Maya Moore, among many others. Ravin writes about his unimaginable transition from practicing law to training NBA and WNBA superstars in The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Heads of Basketball’s Best Players. His story, coupled with his unconventional training techniques, makes him one interesting guy. Here’s what the Hoops Whisperer (also the name of his newly-released memoir) has to say about his career, as well as his coveted grooming tips.
Crave: What made you decide you wanted to switch careers and go from practicing law to being a basketball trainer?
Idan Ravin: I did what a good Jewish boy was supposed to do and checked the lawyer box. But the practice of law wasn’t for me. I knew it from the minute I cracked open my first textbook in law school. I picked law because this was what I was supposed to do, not what I was meant to do. And for years I was desperate to escape and find an answer for what I was supposed to do with my life.
While working at my law firm, I ran into a couple guys I used to play ball with in a local park when we were young. Years later, they played basketball professionally overseas. I don’t know why I asked them. The thought of training athletes and making a living from it was a million light years away from my thoughts or intentions. I simply asked them whether they wanted to meet me in the gym to workout. They agreed. During our workouts, we worked on some of the same drills I created for myself when I was younger. They had fun. They liked it. They wanted to come back. And they did. One player led me to another player, which led me to another player and, eventually, to my first NBA player, Steve Francis. I didn’t think much of it. There are only a few degrees of separation between players playing professionally and I just really enjoyed the time in the gym discovering I loved the game in a different way.
For the next few years I continued to volunteer to work with different players whenever I had some free time: in the evenings, on the weekends, etc. Each time not realizing I was getting better and honing my craft. Then one day while having lunch with my mom, she asked me in her thick Israeli accent, “Do you charge the players you work with?” That question hit me like a sledgehammer! I couldn’t answer. How could I charge them? My entire life I had earned money doing what I hated so how could I now make money doing what I loved and would gladly do for free? I was terrified to raise this issue with the players because I thought they would walk away, with the thing I discovered I loved disappearing along with them.
Fast forward several more months, one evening I got a call from Elton Brand, who at the time played for the Los Angeles Clippers. He wanted to train. His team doctors gave him clearance to resume practicing. I finally mustered up the courage and asked Elton “to pay me whatever you think this is worth to you.” I worked with Elton that first week and afterwards received a check with more zeroes than I had ever seen. I felt so uncomfortable receiving it that I wanted to push it back across the table. It also came with a per diem, a beautiful hotel and flight. Looking back, that moment was very poignant. After all these years chasing this orange leather ball, praying it would take me somewhere special, it finally did. I left the practice of law shortly after, never to return, and began investing a lot more time to training athletes.
If you could give your 22-year-old self any advice, what would it be?
During Thanksgiving I say, “I am thankful for what I have and what I don’t because it has made me who I am today.” In other words, I don’t live with much regret or wonder what could have been. When I speak to large groups, I talk about relying on faith to find your purpose and the courage necessary to act on it. At 22, I had faith but not the courage to aggressively pursue what I loved.
What are some of your favorite fitness and grooming products?
I love Nike tech-fit and high-end luxury brands that have ventured into funky sneaker designs. I also love the Dove Men + Care line, especially the new Cool Fresh Antiperspirant, with 48-hour odor and wetness protection that doesn’t irritate your skin.