David Thorpe is a regular contributor to ESPN.com where he offers plenty of NBA insight and weekly chats. Serving as the Executive Director of the Pro Training Center at IMG Academies (located in Bradenton, FL), David also specializes in training professional athletes, as well as basketball enthusiasts.
Q: The staff here at Wicked Info would love to attend one of your basketball training camps. Pride is preventing most of us from going because our lateral quickness is preposterously bad (our D is like a bad impression of Adam Morrison or, even worse, Amare Stoudemire). For all of our readers who will be attending, what can they expect to experience?
DT: We'd like for everyone to get a firsthand feel for what our college and pro guys do each day when they are here every summer. We water it down some when necessary, for obvious reasons. But the teaching is not watered down, only the reps or intensity. For anyone who is playing the game, there are mechanical and strategic things that can be improved. One player may use his guide hand too much in his shot (like Joakim Noah), so we'd work on keeping that hand quiet through the release. For another, it may be that he/she has an excellent post game, but too often does not fight for better spots on the floor (like LeBron James used to), so we'd teach them to value spots more and work on how to get open in those areas. Everyone will get our personal trainers to teach them proper movement techniques, which should help them prevent injuries and maximize their workouts when they get home. Same with strength and cardio training.
Our, now, world-renowned media and communication expert (Steve Shembaum) will conduct a session of improv that is not just incredibly funny but also very practical for the CEO/business types we get at these things. Overall, we touch on every aspect of basketball and performance training, so by the end of the session our clients are exhausted and sore but invigorated to keep practicing. And they'll see so much more when they watch an NBA game than they ever have before.
Q: Your rapid-fire chats on ESPN are well known for acerbic wit, precision info and the infamous "bans." While there must be countless posts that qualified, can you give us 5 submissions that screamed out for banishment?
(Editor's note: For those who are not familiar, Coach Thorpe will ban a user from posting again on further chats if they make outlandish/idiotic comments.)
DT: I honestly don't remember a single one - I tend to go so fast that I retain nothing. But I can tell you what typically draws a ban. If someone suggests that OJ Mayo is already superior to Oscar Robertson. Or that Jordan, Magic, or Bird are overrated. Or perhaps they'll suggest that Phoenix trade Amare and Nash for Rafer Alston and Shane Battier. It's all in good fun, so out of respect to that, I'll "ban" them. Naturally, I can't really do that. One thing that won't get you banned is to say that I'm stupid, or overpaid, or lucky that ESPN allows me to chat even though I tend to answer with few words. I actually like that negative stuff - keeps the chat moving. The idea, to me, is to make it like it would be if we were all hanging out together. Which, in a way, we are.
Q: The new "hot debate," concerning the NBA All-Star game has been whether the subs should be very good players on a great team (e.g. Jameer Nelson, Mo Williams and Rashard Lewis) or guys putting up fantastic numbers on mediocre teams (e.g. Al Jefferson and Kevin Durant). What's your take on this?
DT: I have not watched an All-Star game since Magic's last one. So I don't care. Seems smart to give the fans what they want. But in general, it's not fair to punish great players on bad teams twice.
Q: Being a coach allows you to enjoy aspects of viewing a NBA game that the layman would easily miss. What are 3 things that fans should try to pick up more during their viewings?
DT: A) What defenders are doing on screens. Rarely is it the fault of the man guarding the scorer when he scores after getting a screen.
B) Weak-side action in general - that's where most of the play-actions that result in a score originate from.
C) Body language and communication between players and coaches after the whistle is blown. Watch the Spurs first - then compare that to everybody else. They are primo #1.
Q: The fan's argument on "Who's better: Kobe or Lebron?" has reached near epic levels this season. I've noticed that hidden amongst the diatribes appears to be an attachment to the star as a whole (i.e. Kobe is my "boy," if you attack him, it's like you're also attacking me). Have you noticed this slight nuance as well?
DT: Honestly, my guess is that most people who take this approach are still in middle school. What adult takes on that kind of attitude? If I love Billy Joel, but think The Boss is better, does that mean I hate Billy Joel? And would Billy Joes fans (those out of high school anyway) hate me for liking Bruce better? I think not.
Q: Amongst many others, you've had the pleasure of coaching NBA stars Kevin Martin and Luol Deng. If you could pick a handful of other NBA pros to coach, who would they be and what part of their game would you like to fix?
DT: I really don't ever think about that, in those terms. I'm just a teacher, ultimately, who feels blessed when I get the chance to teach students who really want to learn. I'm just as proud of some of my students in Europe, making $70,000 a season as I am the guys over there making that much or more each month. And those guys mean as much to me as my NBA guys, who make those amounts and more every game.
Q: There's nary a chat where you don't mention how blissfully married you are. What have been your keys for maintaining and enjoying your marriage?
DT: Probably the most important thing is to be married to the right person, right? Chrisy and I were friends first for a few months, back in 1987. But we fell in love pretty fast after that. I'd say the fact that we respect each other as people probably accounts for much of our good fortune. If I really felt the need to travel the country working basketball camp, back when we first were together, she'd understand and enthusiastically send me away. Unless she needed me here for something, and then it was up to me to respect her wishes. We built a great foundation back then, and it has carried us through the joys and pains of any long marriage.
Oh, and it helps to be totally in love with your spouse - and if you knew my wife you'd know how easy it is for me to feel this way. The fact that I wear my feelings for her on my sleeve as a writer is a direct result of what I do in the gym. I want my players to trust me, and for that to happen they have to see all of me. My marriage is the thing I'm most proud of in my life, and I think that my players respect that. In turn, when they learn to settle down with their own special woman, I tend to get a call right away with the news. It's a part of growing up that every player benefits from, if they find the right partner. Players want, above all else, transparency and honesty. I think readers do, too.
Q: While it wouldn't make any sense for guards or wings, can you imagine any NBA bigs ingesting steroids or HGH in order to become more dominant force in the post?
DT: Not for that reason. But for injury prevention and quicker recoveries, yes. Thus far, I've not seen or heard of a single incident, outside of every college team giving creatine to their players. Which is perfectly legal, but not something I recommend. We can get into that another time.
Q: I'm fairly sure you're the only ESPN columnist who preps for your chats by listening to copious amounts of Opera music. If we were to scour your iPod, which symphonies would get the most rotation?
DT: Definitely Mozart's "Don Giovanni." I listen to that on every plane trip. I love Debussy's classical stuff, with Clair de Lune being my favorite. Verdi's "La Traviata" is great. I have some favorite aria's too-"Nessun Dorma," for example, is something I play when I want to be inspiring because it inspires me. It's about a man celebrating that he's going to live (the end anyway). Two years ago I had a tumor removed that turned out to be malignant. For three weeks I didn't know if I had cancer in my lungs, lymph nodes, brain, etc. That was a terrible three weeks, as you could guess. On the day we found out that I was cancer-free throughout my body (thanks Bro!), well, I felt like the character in "Turandot" that sings "Nessun Dorma." Youtube it and enjoy.
Q: With Kevin Durant's game ascending to new heights, do you feel that he, and not Lebron James, will finally be the player who will eventually be thought of as "better than Michael Jordan"?
DT: No, I don't. LeBron is just too special, and too strong. But I love, love, love KD. I called Chad Ford in November of 2007 and said "we have a competitor for Oden's #1 slot." And I made that same argument every week. To this day, I think Portland should have drafted KD. And I love Oden, too. Had a different team been drafting first, I could have seen Oden be the better choice. But can you imagine Portland with Durant now? Wow. He's such a gifted scorer, and now that he's impacting the game in other ways we get to see his true upside, which is MVP of the league potential.