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March 7 – March Madness Inspiration

Inspirational Stories

by Alan Stein (@AlanStein)

Alan SteinIf you love the game of basketball… you love the month of March.  Ain’t nothin’ like March Madness!

From buzzer beaters to Cinderella stories, March is the most inspiring month for true hoops junkies.

Here is a legendary story I want to share:

Do you know what Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo had his team do at their first practice of the 1999-2000 season?  No shooting drills.  No ball handling drills. No defense, no rebounding, no passing, and no sprints. At the first practice he had his players practice cutting down the nets.  That’s right, they practiced cutting down the nets! It must have worked because less than 6 months later Coach Izzo and the Spartans did cut down the nets at the RCA Dome after they beat Florida for the National Championship. Success can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And even though March is all about college hoops, here are 4 inspirational NBA stories I want to share:

MJ1. During the end of the 1996-1997 regular season, Tim McCormick of the NBPA had an opportunity to go watch a Chicago Bulls practice.  The Bulls were pursuing their 2nd straight (and 5th overall) NBA Championship and had set an NBA record with 72 wins the previous season.

As excited as he was to be there, he was a little disappointed because he assumed he wouldn’t get to see Michael Jordan practice.  After all, the Bulls just played 4 games in 5 nights and he assumed MJ would take a well-deserved day off.  Especially since they won all 4 of those games and his Airness had scored something like 38, 42, 46, and 34 points (and played over 40 minutes each game).

Much to his surprise, MJ showed up 45 minutes before practice.  He began with some form shooting and then quickly moved to a variety of up-tempo shooting drills (using an assistant coach as a rebounder).  He got up around 200 shots. He was focused and intense and was in a full lather of sweat by the time the rest of the team arrived.

Sensing his team needed a light day; Phil Jackson told the team that practice was only going to consist of a scrimmage to 20 baskets.  MJ proceeded to score 12 of his team’s baskets and assisted on 3 others. He dove for loose balls and even took a charge! Needless to say, his team won easily.

On a day when Michael Jordan deserved to take a day off and rest… he still outworked everyone and gave 100%. His commitment to excellence and his competitive fire never stopped.  Michael Jordan wasn’t great by accident.

Kevin Durant2. Sam Presti, the Executive Vice President & General Manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder, shared these reasons as to why Kevin Durant is an NBA superstar:

    • KD is a notable teammate.  He has relationships with everyone in the organization. From the guy who sweeps the floor to the team owner.
    • KD is an impressive practice player.  As hard as he plays in games, he practices even harder.  He knows that improvement comes from practice.
    • KD is focused on the process and on the long term.  He isn’t in search of a magic bullet.  He embraces slow, incremental gains. He knows greatness takes time.
    • KD takes care of his body.  He lifts weights year round, ices after games, eats well, and isn’t a party animal.  His commitment shows in his daily workouts.
    • KD is the team’s unofficial off-season leader. He organizes group workouts and pick-up games.  Wherever he is, he is always setting up places to play and inviting (and encouraging) his teammates to join him.
    • KD absolutely loves to play basketball.  His passion is pure.  He respects the game.

Chris Paul3. Steve Kostorowski, Chris Paul’s long time personal trainer, sent an email with the subject line: “Things CP does in the off-season before most guys are even out of bed!”

  • Wakes up at 5:00am.
  • Drives to the gym.
  • Does a thorough warm-up.
  • Does 30 minutes of injury prevention and corrective exercises.
  • Does between 500-750 abdominal crunches.
  • Lifts between 4,000-5,000 lbs. with every major muscle group (legs, chest, back, etc.).
  • Does a variety of balance and coordination drills.
  • Performs 1,000 reps of jump rope.
  • Does 40 minutes of on-court ball handling and conditioning.
  • Eats a nutritious breakfast (post workout meal).

Kobe Bryant4. Shooting coach extraordinaire Dave Hopla had the opportunity to work with Kobe Bryant back in 1996, before he was drafted by the Lakers, and then continued to work with him for the first 4 years of Kobe’s NBA career.

Here is a quick story about the first time they met:

Kobe called late one evening to set up a workout for the following day. The only time Coach Hopla had available was 5:30am because he was heading out of town around lunchtime. Kobe said, “Sounds good, let’s do it.”

Coach Hopla arrived at the gym at 5:15am and saw that Kobe was already there… preparing for the workout to start at 5:30am.  Kobe had arrived at 4:45am.  He was in a full sweat before the workout officially started.

The first drill they did was a Half-Court Shuttle Drill:

  • You need 1 ball and 1 person to rebound and pass
  • Set up a cone at mid-court and 2 cones at the free throw line extended (3 feet from sideline)
  • Start at mid-court and sprint for a jump shot at the free throw line
  • Sprint back to the mid-court cone, then sprint to either outside cone for another jump shot
  • Sprint back to mid-court, then sprint to the other cone for a jump shot
  • Lastly, sprint to mid-court, and sprint in to finish with a dunk or layup
  • If you miss any shots, you continue until you make the shot from that spot.
  • Record your best time. A good time is less than 21 seconds on an NBA court.

In his first time doing the drill, Kobe moved at lighting pace and nailed his first three jump shots… but then missed the final dunk (pounded it off the back rim).

Without hesitation (or without complaining or pouting), Kobe sprinted after the ball (which bounced all the way past half court), picked it up, sprinted back… and took off from just inside the foul line and dunked it home. He then looked up and said, “What was my time?”  Without prompting from Coach Hopla, he jogged to mid-court and began the drill again.

That was the first drill Coach Hopla ever took Kobe through. He immediately knew that Kobe was a special player and would go down in history as one of the greats.  Over the next few years of working with Kobe, Coach Hopla made this observation:

“Kobe has a sense of urgency with everything he does. Every rep, every shot, every drill is important to him. He takes advantage of every opportunity to get better. Kobe is never satisfied with his game and his always looking to improve. That hunger is what makes him great.”

If you enjoyed these stories or have one you want to share, drop me a shout on Twitter and let me know.

Enjoy the Madness.

Alan Stein

Love this as much as we do??? Here are more links to great Alan Stein content:

His Company – Stronger Team –
His Podcast – Hardwood Hustle –
His Videos on Demand


Finishing Drills

We are thrilled to give you a brand new Better Basketball video completely free, just for following along this month!

Here’s the situation: you’re on the move, with the ball, headed to the rim, but you’re not wide open. You need a finishing move and you need the right move for the right situation.

This video identifies 9 finishing moves for 9 situations. We then add a bonus game at the end for 10 outstanding drills that will benefit any player or coach.

Anyone who already has, or creates, a free Video on Demand account during the month of March will be able to view this video automatically from the video page. It will be added to everyone’s library permanently on March 31.

Watch the intro below, then click the link to get your 10 Drills!

To watch the rest of the video, click here and login.


Extravaganza Special: $100 OFF
Alan Stein’s Stronger Team Huddle!

From now until MARCH 17, you can take $100 off of one of the great experiences in coaching.

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This exclusive weekend course will teach you everything you need to know to design, implement and supervise a comprehensive and purposeful year-round basketball-specific strength & conditioning and performance enhancement program.

The Stronger Team Huddle is a first class, all-inclusive professional development experience. The next Huddle will be held March 28-30, 2014 at the Nike World Headquarters in Portland, Oregon.

Go to and use code HUDDLE100


Full Time-Out with Rick Torbett @RickTorbett

Early Offense

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about rick torbett

Rick Torbett has taught thousands of coaches to win more games through his innovative approach to the game. He has created powerful training for coaches at any level so they can coach their best and win more games.

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Read & React 5-Player Coordination Drills

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