I met Kevin Durant during his junior year at Oak Hill and began working him out that spring. He then transferred to Montrose Christian for his senior year (I was the team’s strength & conditioning coach).
Fast forward to today. KD is an All-Star and one of the NBA’s most potent scorers. Even though I no longer work him out, we have kept in touch after all these years.
This past weekend, Blair and I flew to Oklahoma City to see the Warriors play the Thunder. It was a whirlwind trip – in and out in less than 24 hours. But it was one I will never forget.
KD rolled out the red carpet for us. He had us picked up from the airport, let us stay at his house, autographed some stuff for our friends and family, and gave us an inside look at what NBA players do on game day (not to mention gave us courtside seats for the game).
Prior to our arrival, KD had a shoot-around with the team at 9:00am, which was followed by a breakfast prepared by the team chef. After relaxing at home, he ate his pre-game meal at 2:00pm (4 hours before tip-off), got dressed, and took us to the arena.
KD chooses to arrive at the arena 3 hours before tip-off to begin his preparation. His routine includes treatment from the athletic trainer, corrective exercises with the strength coach, and shooting a couple hundred shots.
KD was all business on the way to the game. He takes his mental preparation very seriously.
Once we arrived at the arena, KD spoke to every person he passed on the way to the locker room… security officers, maintenance workers, PR folks, etc. He looked them in the eye, shook their hand, and called them by name.
We got to speak with Dwight Daub, the Thunder strength coach. He does an outstanding job. He gave us a quick run-down of what the players do in-season:
· Players have to get in a minimum of 10 strength workouts per month. They have the option to lift on game day. Most choose not to and prefer to lift before/after practice.
· Players have to get in a minimum of 12 corrective exercise workouts per month. These brief workouts consist of movements tailored specifically for individualized weaknesses and injury prone areas.
· Players that average playing less than 15 minutes have to get in 15 minutes of intervals on the elliptical or treadmill on game days to maintain their conditioning level. They do 15 sets of :30 on, :30 off at an appropriate intensity level.
Even though the team had a shoot around that morning at 9:00am, almost every player (from both teams) came in early to put in extra work.
“There will be two buses leaving for tonight’s game. The 2:00pm bus will be for those who need some extra practice. The empty bus will leave at 5:00pm.”
Many young players make the mistake of thinking NBA players just play. Nothing could be further from the truth. These guys are great players because they work on their game every day.
It’s not just the rookies or the guys trying to earn more time. Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden were already going through intense shooting drills when KD joined them.
For the Warriors, Jeremy Lin was going through a ball handling and shooting workout with one of the assistant coaches. He was doing 2 ball drills and a series of running hooks and floaters. He was working harder a few hours before a game than most high school players do in the off-season!
Stephen Curry came out soon thereafter and went through his standard pre-game shooting routine… getting in a few hundred game shots, from game spots, at game speeds. Steph has always worked relentlessly on his game.
Sitting court side reminded me how fast and explosive NBA players are. The pace of an NBA game is incredible. The players are so big and so strong… the game is just as physical as it is fast. TV doesn’t do it justice. Anyone who thinks that NBA players only play hard during the playoffs doesn’t have a clue. These guys get after it, night in and night out. There is a reason the best players in the world are in the NBA.
After the game was over (Thunder held on to win by 3), KD came over to say good-bye, as he had to go straight to the airport to fly to Chicago for their game against the Bulls the following night.
The last thing he said to me was, “thanks for coming man, I always appreciate your support.”
I just had one of the best days of my professional life… and he thanked me.
Wow. He is one of kind. Kevin Durant is every bit as good of a person as he is a basketball player.
Days like that remind me how truly fortunate I am.