By Robert Gluck
Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of several National Basketball Association (NBA) stars.
Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing to becoming a well-respected figure in NBA circles despite the fact that he never played college or professional basketball. Using unorthodox drills and improvisational techniques to improve their games, Ravin is sought after by many players and has reportedly turned down full-time positions with NBA teams to keep working one-on-one with the stars.
Born to an Israeli mother and Russian father, Ravin grew up in a Conservative Jewish home. His parents were raised in observant families and chose careers in Jewish education. Both taught Judaic studies at Jewish schools and synagogues, spoke mostly Hebrew, and lived modest lives.
“Fast-forward 20 years. I returned to Israel dribbling a ball, this time with New York Knicks’ All-Star forward Amar’e Stoudemire,” Ravin writes. “Amar’e felt spiritually connected to Israel and Judaism, inspired by his mother’s affinity for the religion. To prepare for his  trip, Amar’e studied Hebrew with my mom. She taught him some expressions he could toss at the Israeli media.”
Ravin took the Knicks’ star to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, where he saw Stoudemire’s emotional response to a tour guide’s stories of the brutality inflicted on Jewish children by the Nazis.
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