Brash and confident, budding strength trainer Alan Stein walked right up to 16-year-old Kevin Durant in a Maryland high school gym.
“Look, man, you have all the tools to be one of the best players in the world, but the only way you can do that is to get stronger,” Stein recalled telling Durant back in 2005. “I can help you. Give me a shot.”
Skilled with a silky jumper and blessed with a recent growth spurt, Durant was a highly coveted 6-foot-10 hoops prospect attending nearby Oak Hill Academy, a national power.
But the current Thunder superstar wore his obvious weakness on that slender teenage frame. He was 185 pounds, rail thin and lacking on-court strength.
Anyone could identify that. But Stein had a nonbinding proposal to help fix it.
“Just come in for one workout with me and if you don't like it, you don't ever have to speak to me again,” Stein told Durant. “And I think that's what kind of gave him some assurance that I wasn't trying to take from him or latch on to him.”
These days, Stein is nationally renowned for his work in youth basketball. He's an assistant coach at DeMatha High School in the Washington, D.C., area. He has a large Twitter backing (more than 46,000 followers) to whom he delivers inspirational quotes regularly. And he travels the country during the offseason, sharing his methods and unique drills with coaches and players, including a three-hour session at Del City High School on Saturday.
But back then, he was a relative unknown with a rigorous workout plan that was unappealing to most teenagers.
That didn't include the 16-year-old Durant.
“He came in for that first workout and I busted him up pretty good,” Stein recalls.
Forty-five minutes of core work and conditioning on the court. Forty-five minutes of strength training and lifting in the weight room. No dribbling. No shooting. No skill work.
“After about 90 minutes, he lay there just absolutely exhausted and spent and I said, ‘Hey, did you have fun?' ” Stein remembered. “And he looked at me dead serious and said, ‘No, that wasn't fun. … But I know that's what I need to do to get to the next level, so when can we meet again?' That was really when it struck me how mature he was. Because most 16-year-olds don't do things that they don't like to do.”
From there, the professional relationship rapidly developed.
Three times a week, Stein hopped in his car for the 1-hour drive over to Durant's place. He'd pick him up, bring him to a local gym, send him through the grinder and then get him a nutritious meal.
“It was tough,” Durant said. “But I continued to do it, continued to get bigger and get better. Gained a lot of weight.”
It worked so well that, for his senior season, Durant transferred to Montrose Christian, where he'd be closer to friends and able to work out more regularly with Stein, who was the strength coach there.
The dividends were immediate. Durant gained 20 pounds his senior year, bulking up to around 205 and rapidly rising up the recruiting ranks.
He then moved on to Texas and eventually the NBA, where Stein maintained contact, working him out occasionally when he was back home for a couple years.
“He was a very influential person in my life for those two or three years, on and off the court,” Durant said. “He did a great job of telling me what my body needs as far as foods and what times I need to eat, what parts of the day. … I still do the things he tells me to this day.”
Today, the two stay in touch. They'll text back and forth, see each other a couple of times during the year. And the mutual respect is obvious.
Durant, who is up to 235 pounds and has always played stronger than he looks, used those initial workouts to build a strong foundation. And Stein, who can now use Durant's success and kinds words as a resume booster, has been able to watch one of his favorite pupils ascend to superstar status.
“His rise has been unbelievable,” Stein said. “And I'm very content with being in the background and knowing that I played a very, very tiny role in his development when he was younger. There's a list of people who have helped Kevin and been good to Kevin and he shows so much gratitude to me and everyone else. He's as classy as a guy who you'd ever meet in any walk of life.”