Hoops Whisperer

By Wiedeman, Reeves | The New Yorker, May 12, 2014 | Go to article overview

Hoops Whisperer


Wiedeman, Reeves, The New Yorker


HOOPS WHISPERER

--Reeves Wiedeman

Idan Ravin, a personal trainer who calls himself the Hoops Whisperer, has so many clients in the N.B.A.--LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard--that the league's playoffs have become a time of confused allegiance. "I always say, 'If Steph scores a hundred and Chris scores a hundred, I'm happy,' " Ravin said last week, when asked whom he was rooting for in the matchup between Stephen Curry's Golden State Warriors and Chris Paul's Los Angeles Clippers. Both players are clients, and Ravin had been texting with them throughout the series, during which both had been dealing with fallout from the release of a tape in which the Clippers' owner, Donald Sterling, expressed his distaste for African-Americans--twelve of whom are members of his team. "People like to imagine they live in this golden palace on the top of the hill, that they're insulated from all of life's struggles," Ravin said, of the players. "That's not the case. These guys have had to struggle their whole lives."

Ravin, who has the shaved head and sunken eyes of a mountain yogi, fancies himself a thinker on both basketball and life. He refers to his practice court as a "sanctuary," to his clients as "Dream Catchers," and to his koans of wisdom as "Idanics." ("There is no 'I' in 'team,' but there are two in 'listening.' ") In his new memoir, "The Hoops Whisperer," he cites the Allegory of the Cave, "Life of Pi," and his four-year-old niece's coloring book as guides to an improved free-throw percentage, and he tweets under the handle Idanwan. (The name, which is occasionally mistaken for a gnomic "Star Wars" reference, actually alludes to a text message sent to him by a player who, after catching him on a date, was attempting a pun on "Don Juan.")

Ravin, who is the son of Russian and Israeli immigrants, rejects any comparison between himself and the Clippers' players--"It's one thing to be an outsider; it's another to feel discrimination"--but does see himself as an interloper in the world of professional basketball. Born into a Conservative Jewish family in Maryland, he was cut from his seventh-grade basketball team--an indignity that he blames, in part, on his father, who installed the family hoop nine inches too high. Ravin went on to law school, and worked for three years as an insurance litigator--a job he hated--before moving back in with his parents and running informal basketball workouts at local rec centers. One session caught the eye of Steve Francis, an N.B.A. all-star from Maryland, who gave Ravin the nickname Crouton, because he was "cooler than a regular cracker. …

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