As I have mentioned numerous times, the game of basketball has afforded me the opportunity to meet some amazing people, travel to some amazing places, and have some amazing experiences. All of which I am thankful for.
One of those remarkable people is shooting coach Dave Hopla. Coach Hopla has worked in the NBA for several years (Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards). My right hand man Blair O’Donovan has worked with him the past 5 years in China at the Nike All-Asia Camp and they have become great friends.
In addition to working directly for NBA teams, Coach Hopla has been hired privately by the game’s best players. We asked him to share two of his most memorable stories:
A Young Kobe Bryant
Coach 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 lunch time. 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 is always looking to improve. That hunger is what makes him great.”
Brandon Jennings is the Future
Coach Hopla was hired to work with the Milwaukee Buck’s Brandon Jennings this past August. He was scheduled to fly into Milwaukee one afternoon to work Brandon out that evening and then again the following morning. Coach Hopla’s flight was severely delayed. He called Brandon to apologize and let him know he wouldn’t be getting in until 11pm and wanted to see what time he wanted to work out the next morning. Brandon said, “Morning? I still want to work out tonight. Let’s meet at the gym at midnight.”
Coach Hopla worked Brandon out from midnight to 2:30am… and they went hard! They went again at 7:00am the next morning!
Coach Hopla was extremely impressed with Brandon’s work ethic and determination to get better. He said Brandon has a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove to the world he is one of the best point guards in the NBA. But he isn’t looking for a hand-out; he wants to earn that distinction.
It wouldn’t be fair to highlight those two stories without highlighting Coach Hopla’s story as well. He is considered by many to be the top shooter in the world. He regularly keeps track of all his shots during practice and when he is speaking at camps and clinics.
His stats are mind-boggling:
- In 2005, he made 98.20% of his shots (35,332 out of 35,979 shots).
- In the summer of 2007, he spoke at 31 camps and shot an unbelievable 99.19% (11,093 out of 11,183 shots), including 260 for 281 from the 3-point line (92.52%).
- During 3 camps, he was perfect from the field during his lecture:
- June 25, 2007 at the University of Maryland he was 263 for 263.
- July 28, 2007 at the CT Starters camp he was 339 for 339.
- August 2, 2007 at UCLA he was 272 for 272
His shooting knowledge, expertise, and love for the game are unmatched. For more on Coach Dave Hopla and his outstanding program, please visit www.DaveHopla.com.
I have had the honor of speaking with Kobe and Brandon about their strength & conditioning programs. Both are fully committed to year-round training and know how important it is stay strong, mobile, and in great basketball shape. Both mentioned several times how important it is to have a strong core.
Train hard. Train smart.
P.S.: This past summer we launched the Can He Dunk? Project (www.CanHeDunk.com). We are gearing up for Part 2…this time with ex-players ages 25-40 (aka “weekend warriors”). We will hold an open casting call in early December to select the participants and then begin the 10-week training program in early January.
Some may think these guys are “over the hill”… but all we want to know is Can He Dunk?
Stay tuned for details and dates!