How The Nike Training Session In Toronto Almost Killed One Of Us Once Again

TORONTO — We both had trouble squatting down on the toilet later in the day. It was those damn medicine balls. They worked muscles we hadn’t ever seemed to use — except after we’d grabbed a book and were settling down for that once- or twice-daily porcelain pontification that everyone does. But it wasn’t just the sore muscles, it was the endless drills with very little rest, and that’s where we diverged.

On the Friday before the All-Star Game in Toronto, Dime’s staff writer, Jack Winter, joined me in a Toronto gym for a hour-long workout hosted by Nike that conjured up some painful memories, and reiterated something I already knew: Jack is in much better shape than me, and it’s got nothing to do with how much longer I’ve been alive.

Jack is a little shorter than me, too. Strangely, I had always thought he was taller, but I’ve got an inch or two on him, something we discovered on the car ride to the training session, actually. Jack’s also a former college football player who outweighs me by at least 25 pounds, and that’s after losing a bunch of weight since his college days. If you saw Jack on the street, you’d think he was a professional athlete or an REI model (his older brother is actually a model, so this comparison makes real sense and will embarrass the hell out of him when we’ve finally published).

I only mention this to show how two equally-as-chair-bound basketball editors could have such wildly different experiences while training with Coach Cedric Carter and Jalen Braithwaite. (I told Jalen he was my favorite Jalen, and I stand by that even after Cedric’s drills drained the life from me.) Carter runs Galaxy Training, and he’s not someone to skimp on his drills even though he’s putting media members through the paces.

Our 1-on-1, but really 2-on-2, workout with Coach Carter and Braithwaite was all about keeping your wind, and one of us didn’t have it. Jack runs and lifts and is a normal 20-something who can withstand a whole lot more than the scrawny guy who spent more time lying supine on the court in agony than he did actually going through the drills.

Here’s a pretty good image of what I’m talking about.

My embarrassment all started innocuously enough with those damn medicine balls I’ve already mentioned. The actual drills were toxic for anyone who spends 10-12 hours every day in front of a glowing computer screen while sitting on their fanny. The contortions they forced on us focused almost exclusively on the core. Any time someone mentions their #core to me, I roll my eyes and pretend like someone else is trying to get my attention. It’s weird #gymspeak I don’t have any patience for. And my sore upper thighs, abdominal muscles and lower-back region — despite more than a week having passed — are a prime reason why. They got worked to death as we pump faked and pivoted over and over and over again with those increasingly heavier balls. It wasn’t inexorable, but brief rests felt like they were saving me from drowning in hurt.

“Lemme get my pulse under eightball of cocaine levels,” I told Coach Carter at some point in the workout. It was a joke, but not really. My heart felt like it was gonna gyrate right out of my neck, and the urge to pull the trigger yet again was a very real possibility. (I didn’t, but it was close.)

Next up were some quick feet drills followed by a finish at the rim. Have you ever been asked to rub your stomach and pat your head at the same time, then asked to do it in reverse? It’s a left brain, right brain exercise, and that’s what the quick feet drills felt like because we did them with a basketball.

We were told to stutter step inside and then outside the assigned boxes. Right foot outside, left foot outside, right foot inside, left foot inside: bang, bang, bang, bang. While we were doing this, we passed the ball around our bodies — like the most rudimentary sections of those old Pistol Pete drills his domineering dad used to make him do.

Maybe this whole thing sounds really easy, but try it some time — the setup is simple — and you’ll see that it’s harder than even I’ve probably made it sound. Either that, or I’m just really bad at physical activity. Jack was fine in this drill, by the way. I had barely caught my breath from the medicine ball portion of the workout, so I silently cursed his youth and vigor as he nonchalantly preformed the routines like he was taking a stroll in the park.

After a few of these footwork drills, we finally did something a little more basketball-facing. We focused on the Kobe (and D-Wade) staple: the shot fake. Actually, it was a continuation of the medicine ball routine, where we shot faked, jab stepped and eventually exploded to the rim. The actual move came from the triple-threat position, but we first had to shake Coach Jalen off us as we faked a baseline cut before making a diagonal sprint to the free throw line extended where we received the ball. Here’s a picture of Jack performing the drill.

After those triple-threat drills from each wing, our hour workout finally ended.

I probably celebrated a little too much.

I’m not an expert, but for the purposes of the stop-start drills we did during our hour of hell, the Kobe 11 more than met the necessary footwear criteria. It’s rare you’ll find a sneaker that molds so quickly to your foot and they felt incredibly comfortable despite never having laced them up before that day. It’s the last sneaker Kobe will ever wear on the court, so it felt special to try them out during his final All-Star weekend as a player.

Many thinks to Coach Carter and Braithwaite for putting up with all my bellyaching and whining.

Despite the awesome gear and the fly(knit) sneakers, I might just send Jack next time. I’m too old and out of shape for this stuff.